A Qatar court announced a verdict of death penalty on Thursday for the eight former Indian Navy personnel held on undeclared charges since August 2022.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a press release on October 26, 2023, expressed great shock at the verdict and said that it’s exploring all legal options. “We are deeply shocked by the verdict of death penalty and are awaiting the detailed judgment. We are in touch with the family members and the legal team, and we are exploring all legal options”, said the MEA.
The MEA has restrained from giving any further comments on the situation due to the confidential nature of the proceedings of the case.
In August 2022, when the eight retired Navy personnel were detained they were working for Al Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services. Al Dahra is a private defense services provider company in Qatar that is owned by an Oman Air Force Officer according to the Hindustan Times. The firm provided training and other services to the Qatari armed forces and security agencies, describing itself as a “local business partner” for the Qatari armed forces.
Although no Qatari authority has revealed the charges publicly, it is speculated that the detention might be in connection to Al Dahra’s rivalry with another firm. Last month, MEA’s spokesperson Arindam Bagchi confirmed that charges have been presented as part of the hearing but did not elaborate. It is believed the men have been charged with espionage for spying on Qatar’s secret submarine plan. The detention was on suspicion of leaking sensitive and confidential information to Israel.
MEA said in a statement, ”We attach high importance to this case, and have been following it closely. We will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance. We will also take up the verdict with Qatari authorities.” This will include appealing the case in higher courts and working in support of the Prisoners by working backchannel talks with Qatar. The Indian government is acting in accordance with international law and respecting Qatari laws and judicial procedures.
India’s ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal has met the veteran three times so far on consular access.
Who are these eight Indian veterans?
The eight ex-Indian Navy officers are Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vashisht, Commander Purenendu Tiwari, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal and Sailor Ragesh.
The veterans following their arrest were being kept in solitary confinement from which they have been transferred to a double-bed jail ward.
The family members of these men have filed for a mercy plea to the Emir of Qatar who is known to grant pardons during Ramadan and Eid.