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Qatar upholds 15-year sentence on poet

October 21, 2013

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — A defense lawyer in Qatar says an appeals court has upheld the 15-year prison sentence given to a poet for his verses considered offensive to the Gulf nation’s former ruler.

It is among the harshest penalties imposed by Western-backed Gulf states in ongoing crackdowns against perceived dissent on social media and other Internet outlets.

In February, a court lowered the sentence against poet Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami from life behind bars to 15 years. The charges stem from a poem posted online in 2010 that discussed the traits needed for a good leader — seen as a challenge to Qatar’s then-emir and the ruling family.

Al-Ajami’s lawyer, Najeeb al-Nauimi, said the court decision Monday cannot be appealed further and only a pardon from the emir can free his client.

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