DOHA, Qatar — A Qatari poet was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for an Arab Spring-inspired verse that officials claim insulted Qatar’s emir and encouraged the overthrow of the nation’s ruling system, his defense attorney said.
The verdict in a state security court is certain to bring a fresh outpouring of denunciations by rights groups, which have repeatedly called for the release of poet Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami. It also marks another example of tough measures by judicial and security officials in the Gulf against possible challenges to their rule since the Arab Spring revolts began.
The poet’s lawyer, Najib al-Nuaimi, said he planned to appeal.
‘‘This judge made the whole trial secret,’’ said Nuaimi. ‘‘Muhammad was not allowed to defend himself, and I was not allowed to plead or defend in court.’’
Ajami was jailed in November 2011, months after an Internet video was posted of him reciting ‘‘Tunisian Jasmine,’’ a poem lauding that country’s popular uprising, which touched off the Arab Spring rebellions across the Middle East. In the poem, he said, ‘‘We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive’’ authorities and criticized Arab governments that restrict freedoms.
Qatari officials charged Ajami with ‘‘insulting’’ the Gulf nation’s ruler and ‘‘inciting to overthrow the ruling system.’’ The latter charge could have brought a death sentence.