Qatar court accepts appeals of eight Indians facing death penalty for spying

Qatar court accepts appeals of eight Indians

New Delhi: Eight former Indian Navy officers, who were sentenced to death by a Qatari court last month on espionage charges, have filed appeals against their verdicts, sources said on Friday. The Qatari court has admitted their appeals and the Indian government has extended its support to them, the sources added. The eight Indians are hoping for a reversal of their sentences, which have shocked and outraged India.

The eight Indians were working as security consultants for a Qatari company, Al Dahra, which had a contract with the Qatari Emiri Naval Force (QENF) to provide training and maintenance services. They were arrested in August 2022 by the Qatari State Security Bureau, the country’s spy agency, on suspicion of spying on Qatar’s submarine program for Israel, according to media reports. Qatar had signed a deal with an Italian shipbuilding firm in 2020 to build submarines as part of a larger project to upgrade its naval capabilities.

The Qatari authorities did not inform the Indian Embassy about the arrest of the eight Indians, nor did they disclose the charges or evidence against them. The Indian Embassy was able to contact the detainees only a month later, and the families of some of them were allowed to visit them in Qatar. The Indian government has been providing legal and consular assistance to the Indian nationals and has been in touch with the Qatari authorities to seek their release.

On October 26, 2023, the Qatari court pronounced the death sentences for the eight Indians, along with two other foreigners and a Qatari national, who were also accused of espionage. The owner of Al Dahra, an Omani national and a retired squadron leader of the Royal Oman Air Force, was among those sentenced to death. The verdict came as a shock to India, which condemned the decision and said it would explore all legal options in the matter.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs said it was “deeply shocked” by the verdict and was waiting for the detailed judgment. It said it attached great importance to the matter and was monitoring it closely. It also said it would raise the issue with the Qatari authorities and seek a fair and transparent trial for the Indian citizens. The ministry said it could not comment further on the case due to its confidential nature.

The eight Indians who are facing the death penalty are Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vashishtha, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal, and Sailor Rajesh. They are all former Indian Navy officers with “unblemished service records” and had taken voluntary retirement to work in Qatar. They have maintained their innocence and denied any involvement in espionage.

Qatar court accepts appeals of eight Indians

The case has drawn attention to the plight of hundreds of thousands of Indians who work in Qatar, which is one of the richest countries in the world due to its natural gas reserves. Indians form the largest expatriate community in Qatar, accounting for about 25% of the total population of 2.8 million. They work in various sectors, such as construction, hospitality, health, education, and security. India and Qatar have close economic and cultural ties, and the two countries have signed several agreements to enhance their cooperation.