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26 Oct, 2023 15:16

New Delhi ‘deeply shocked’ by Qatari death sentences for Indians

Eight former navy officers were detained in Doha on charges of espionage
New Delhi ‘deeply shocked’ by Qatari death sentences for Indians

New Delhi said on Wednesday that it was “deeply shocked” by the decision of a Qatari court to sentence eight Indian nationals to death. The men were arrested in August last year on charges of spying on a submarine program on behalf of Israel, Mint reported. 

Following the verdict, the Indian Foreign Ministry said it would raise the issue with the authorities in Qatar.

“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,” the ministry stated. It added that the Indian government attaches “high importance” to the case and would “continue to extend all consular and legal assistance.”

The eight Indian nationals, all of whom are former navy personnel, were detained in Doha by the State Security Bureau, Qatar’s intelligence service. They worked for a private firm, Al Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, which provided services to the Qatari armed forces and security agencies. The company’s chief executive was also reportedly arrested last year but was later released on bail.

The list of detainees includes the managing director of Al Dahra, identified as Purnendu Tiwari, who is a retired commander of the Indian Navy, according to Indian media. The others have been identified as Navtej Singh Gill, Saurabh Vasisht, Sanjeev Gupta, Birendra Kumar Verma, Sugunakar Pakala, Amit Nagpal, and Ragesh.

Neither India nor Qatar have made the charges against the men public, although Indian media has speculated that it could be a “security-related matter.” Citing sources, the Hindustan Times reported that the eight men have been charged with espionage and were held in solitary confinement for long spells. The sources also alleged that an Indian journalist and his spouse were recently ordered by Qatari authorities to leave the country for reporting on the case.

India’s ambassador to Qatar and his deputy were granted access to meet the men in prison on October 1, before their seventh hearing on October 3, Indian media reported. Their first trial was held in late-March, and all of their bail pleas were rejected.

Mint newspaper reported that Qatar has evidence suggesting that the former officers passed on intelligence to Israel. According to the outlet, Qatari authorities have claimed that they hold electronic evidence against the men.