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Wed 16 Mar 2016 02:54 PM

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Rights group Amnesty hails release of jailed Qatari poet

Mohammed Al-Ajami was jailed for 15 years for reciting a poem that praised the 2011 Arab spring uprising in Tunisia and criticised Qatar's crown prince

Rights group Amnesty hails release of jailed Qatari poet

The release of Mohammed Al-Ajami, also known as Ibn al-Dheeb, is a welcome development that ends a needless four year ordeal for the Qatari poet, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

The rights group said in a statement that it has spoken to Ajami’s legal representative, who said that relatives of the poet confirmed to him that the poet was released on Tuesday.

The organisation said it has also seen video footage of him after his release.

Ajami, 39, was detained in 2012 and initially sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of "inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime", a term that was a year later reduced to 15 years, for reciting a poem that praised the 2011 Arab spring uprising in Tunisia and criticised the country's crown prince.

“The release of Mohammed al-Ajami is long overdue good news,” said James Lynch, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program,

“It is absurd that he had to spend more than four years behind bars, when his poetry was simply the peaceful expression of his conscientiously held beliefs.

“We hope that the authorities will take the opportunity of this release to review Qatar’s criminal justice system and ensure that such flagrant violations of the right to freedom of expression are not repeated. This case has been a blight on Qatar’s international reputation.”

Amnesty said the terms of Ajami’s release are not yet clear.