DOHA, Qatar—A defense attorney says a Qatar court will decide next month on the appeal of a poet given a life sentence for a verse that allegedly opposed the Gulf emirate's ruling system.

Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami's case is seen as a test of how far Gulf Arab states will push a crackdown on Internet posts they consider politically threatening. They face mounting international criticism.

Najeeb al-Nauimi argues his client had no intention of challenging Qatar's emir. During a hearing Sunday, al-Ajami met directly with the presiding magistrate. A verdict is expected Feb. 25.

Al-Ajami has been jailed since November 2011, months after an Internet video was posted of him reciting "Tunisian Jasmine," lauding the 2010 popular uprising there that touched off the Arab Spring. He was sentenced last November.