Posted by CODEPINK Staff
"In October of last year, two PEN representatives waited for five hours at the guardhouse of Doha Central Prison in the hope that the permission that they had been granted to visit Mohammed al-Ajami would be honored. Phone calls to the prosecutors’ office, to lawyers, to prison guards and back in the hot desert wind were all for naught. The team left Qatar without meeting Mohammed, but not without knowing that he had heard we were there to express our solidarity.
PEN has been fighting for Mohammed al-Ajami’s right to create, and to read, his own poetry since he was first arrested in Qatar in November 2011. Around the world, PEN members from our network of 145 centers have written letters, read his words, petitioned, and spread the urgent call for his release through social and traditional media.
PEN is an organization of writers, for writers, and Mohammed is one of us. PEN fights for freedom of expression wherever it is threatened. We maintain lines of solidarity, and engage in writer to writer contact. If you’re a writer in prison or under threat anywhere in the world, our members will stand up for you, will be your voice when you can’t speak.
Al-Ajami’s detention is a clear violation of universal freedom of expression norms and laws, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For his poetry, and his poetry alone, he is serving a 15-year sentence. He has exhausted his legal options, with the Court of Cassation upholding his sentence the day the PEN delegation arrived last October. But there is still time to make this right. We call on the Emir of Qatar, His Excellency Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to grant Mohammed al-Ajami an unconditional release in the spirit of Ramadan.
To Mohammed al-Ajami: PEN looks forward to finally meeting you upon your release. Until then, know that we are with you, and that you are not alone.
PEN American Center
PEN Center USA
June 10, 2014"