Ajami has a week to appeal the sentence, which was handed down unmotivated after a trial that Amnesty International, which is calling for his immediate release, said was held in secret, and in which the defendant was not allowed legal counsel. ''This sentence sends alarming signals throughout the Gulf, not only in Qatar, where activists feel they are being restricted more and more,'' said Amnesty International researcher, Dina el-Mamoun.
''Qatar, which paints itself internationally as a country that promotes freedom of expression, must be condemned for allowing what appears to be a clear violation of that very freedom,'' said Philip Luther, the Amnesty International director for the Middle East and North Africa.
News of the sentence arrived as 17,000 UN delegates and 7,000 NGO activists gathered in Doha for the 18th Conference on Climate Change, which ends December 7. ''While the Constitution protects freedom of expression within the conditions and circumstance dictated by law, Qatar in practice limits freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Local press tends to self-censor, and the law penalizes defamation, including with prison time,'' according to the Human Rights Watch 2012 report on the Gulf monarchy.
During the Arab Spring, the Qatari authorities raised public employee wages by 60% and those of military officers by 120%, in a move that was interpreted as an attempt to pacify society, even at the risk of stoking inflation and of flouting meritocracy. Also in 2011, a Qatari citizen who attempted to organize a protest on Facebook was arrested before the rally could gather steam. (ANSAmed)