Qaṭar: Shocking life sentences issued for participating in peaceful protests


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is shocked that the Criminal Court in Qatar has sentenced citizens to life in prison due to their active participation in the peaceful protests that culminated on 09 August 2021. It was a busy day in contemporary Qatari history, when protesters from the Al-Murra tribe gathered peacefully to demand the authorities overturn the Shura Council elections law, guarantee the right to full citizenship, respect freedom of expression, and promote social justice among citizens.

At a hearing on 10 May 2022, the Second Circuit Criminal Court issued a life sentence against lawyer Dr. Hazzaa bin Ali Abu Shraydeh Al-Marri, who was arrested on 10 August 2021, and his brother, lawyer Rashid bin Ali Abu Shraydeh Al-Marri, who was arrested the next day.

The court also issued a life sentence in absentia for the Qatari poet, Mohammed bin Rashid bin Al-Dheeb Al-Ajami, who talked about these sentences in a video he posted on his Twitter account on the day of the ruling, stressing that, "This is the path for men to obtain rights."

The 41-page ruling, which GCHR has reviewed, also included a sentence in absentia for citizen Mohammed Hamad Mohammed Al-Marri of 15 years in prison.

It is worth noting that the poet Mohammed Al-Ajami and citizen Mohammed Al-Marri did not actually participate in the popular protests as they were outside the country when they began, but they gave them their full support on social media and by recording video messages with peaceful expressions of support.

As stated in the ruling, they were convicted of the following:

 1. Resorting to threats and other illegal means, to compel the Emir to perform work within his legal jurisdiction, by appearing on several occasions and in recorded video clips, in which they threatened and promised that if their demands were not implemented to change the laws and regulations in force in the country, they will escalate their stance against the state.

2. Challenging by public means the Emir’s exercise of his rights and powers.

3. Spreading false and malicious rumours and news at home and abroad with the intent of harming national interests, inciting public opinion and prejudicing the social order of the state.

4. Promoting, broadcasting and disseminating, through information technology means, incorrect news with the intent of endangering the safety of the state and its public order.

5. Attacking social values ​​and principles through the information network and information technology means.

6. Publishing what would harm the country's ruling system

7. Organising a public meeting without a permit by the three men, which was announced by the fourth man, and the participation of Dr. Hazzaa Al-Marri and his brother Rashid Al-Marri in a gathering with the aim of disturbing public security and not leaving despite the authorities' request from them.

Reliable local sources confirmed that the trial lacked minimum standards for fair trial and legal procedures, and transparency was completely absent from its secret sessions, and the defendants did not have any real opportunity to defend themselves.

The Court has adapted several articles of the Penal Code and its amendments, the Cybercrime Law, the Press and Publications Law and its amendments, the Public Meetings and Processions Law, and the Criminal Procedures Law, in order to issue its unjust rulings.

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GCHR condemns these unjust sentences against lawyer Dr. Hazzaa bin Ali Abu Shraydeh Al-Marri, lawyer Rashid bin Ali Abu Shraydeh Al-Marri, Qatari poet Mohammed bin Rashid bin Al-Dheeb Al-Ajami, and citizen Mohammed Hamad Mohammed Al-Marri. It considers them as security rulings previously issued by the State Security Apparatus, which since its establishment in 2004, compromised the independence of the Qatari judiciary to make it a malleable tool often used to silence those who hold opinions different from the authorities or who oppose the government’s policies and views.

GCHR calls on the Qatari government to immediately overturn all these unfair sentences issued on false charges that violate the civil and human rights of citizens, including the right to express their opinions online and offline, as well as the right to peaceful assembly.