The poet’s lawyer, who is appealing the decision, has said that the trial was held in secret, the poet was not allowed to defend himself or even to enter a plea. According to an article in The Guardian, Ajami was charged with “insulting the Gulf nation’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and inciting to overthrow the ruling system”, a crime punishable by death.
Ajami is a third-year student at Cairo University studying literature. The poem came to public attention after a video was posted on Youtube. Ajami has been in solitary confinement since his arrest in November 2011.
Qatar is home to the international news network Al Jazeera, including Al Jazeera English whose coverage of the middle-east and international news in general has garnered increasing respect from Western audiences. It is a cruel irony indeed that the government that funds such journalistic integrity also restricts freedom of speech in such a violent and reactionary manner.
Thanks to The Guardian for coverage of Ajami’s plight.