Qatar poet remains in prison for ‘offensive’ verse

DOHA, Qatar: An appeals court in Qatar has reduced the sentence of a jailed poet from a life term to 15 years for a verse considered offensive to the Gulf nation’s ruler.

Despite the reduction, poet Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami denounced Qatar’s judicial system in a court session on Monday held under heavy security.

The case has brought international appeals by rights groups and is part of widening crackdowns by Gulf Arab nations against free expression, including sentences for social media posts deemed insulting to leaders.

Al-Ajami was given a life sentence in January for a verse posted online in 2010 that spoke about the traits needed to be a good leader. He also wrote a poem in 2011 that lauded the Arab Spring rebellions and criticized Arab governments that restrict freedoms.