According to al-Ajami's lawyer, Najeeb al-Nuaimi, state security called the poet in the fall of 2011 and asked him to report to the police. When he asked why, he was told just to report. Then he called his friend, the emir's son, who assured him the police just wanted him for routine registration. So he went, and they questioned him about his poetry, and arrested him.
Contacted immediately to represent al-Ajami, the lawyer al-Nuaimi was baffled by the behavior of the state:
"I thought, "How come?' We never had in the history of our judicial system, or even the Arab system, somebody will be arrested because he said a poem. How many poets in our Arab history attacked the ruler, attacked everybody? I mean, even in ancient Islamic time, " nobody hanged them. They gave them money to shut their mouth. That's the way". But why him? They said, "I don't know.' So I felt something unique in this case, something unbelievable, to have somebody to be arrested for a poem.
During the trial, al-Nuaimi was barred from taking part in person, but was allowed to submit arguments in writing. On November 29, the court sentenced al-Ajami to life in prison. He was not present. His lawyer expressed outrage:
"Our system gives people freedom to express themselves". Everybody is equal and has to have their rights. This sentence blows out our constitution and infringes on our legal system."
Persecuted Poet's Coverage Is Global, but Thin
The day after the sentencing, in response to a reporter's question, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said that the U.S. is "obviously concerned" and "seeking additional information." A search of the State Dept. website in mid-December showed no further comment.