Qatar shocker: death penalty for 8 Indians

India explores legal options to help the Navy veterans detained in 2022, Opposition seeks PM’s intervention…reports Asian Lite News

The Court of First instance of Qatar has passed a verdict of death penalty for the eight former naval officers who were detained in Doha, the Ministry of External Affairs said.

The MEA said it is “deeply shocked” by the verdict and now awaits the detailed judgement.

“We have initial information that the Court of First Instance of Qatar has today passed a judgement in the case involving 8 Indian employees of Al Dahra company,” the MEA said in an official press release.

“We are deeply shocked by the verdict of death penalty and are awaiting the detailed judgement. We are in touch with the family members and the legal team, and we are exploring all legal options,” it added.

This matter is very important to us, the MEA said adding that and they have been keeping a close eye on it.

“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,” the MEA release said.

“Due to the confidential nature of proceedings of this case, it would not be appropriate to make any further comment at this juncture,” it added.

The eight Indian nationals have been imprisoned in Qatar since October 2022 and were accused of allegedly spying on a submarine programme.

New Delhi had been granted consular access to the eight Indians and had been working to secure their release. The Indian nationals had their first trial in late March.

Opposition seeks PM’s intervention

Meanwhile, the Congress expressed “anguish and shock” over the disturbing developments in Qatar where eight former Indian Navy personnel, who have been in custody there since last year, being awarded death sentence.

The party said it expects that the government will use its diplomatic and political leverage with the Qatar government to the maximum to ensure that former naval officers have full recourse to appeal for release.

In a post on X, Congress General Secretary (Communication) Jairam Ramesh said, “The Indian National Congress has noted with the greatest anguish, distress and shock the most disturbing developments in Qatar regarding 8 former officers of the Indian Navy.

“It hopes and expects that the Govt of India will use its diplomatic and political leverage with the Qatar government to the maximum to ensure that the officers have full recourse to appeals and also do the utmost to get them released at the earliest.”

Ramesh’s remarks came after news surfaced that eight former Indian Navy personnel, who have been in custody in Qatar since last year, have been awarded death sentence.

The accused, including decorated officers who once commanded major Indian warships, were working for Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, a private firm that provides training and related services to Qatar’s armed forces.

Their bail pleas were rejected numerous times and their detention was extended by the Qatari authorities.

Officers with unblemished service records

The Indians awarded the death penalty include former Indian Navy captain Saurabh Vashisht, commander Purenendu Tiwari, captain Birendra Kumar Verma, commander Sugunakar Pakala, commander Sanjeev Gupta, commander Amit Nagpal and sailor Ragesh.

All eight were former Indian Navy officials with “unblemished service records” and had taken voluntary retirements in search of greener pastures. They moved to Qatar to join the Al Dahra security company, which had a pact with Qatari authorities for facilitating training to naval personnel.

According to the old website of Al Dahra, the company provided training, logistics and maintenance services to the Qatari Emiri Naval Force (QENF). However, the website is now revamped and the company name changed to ‘Dahra Global’ and it no longer boasts any connection with the QENF.

The owner of the company was an Omani national, Khamis al-Ajmi, a retired squadron leader of the Royal Oman Air Force. al-Ajmi too was jailed along with the eight Indians, but he was released in November 2022.

A report that appeared in Al Jazeera in May claims the Indians are accused of passing information about a stealth-capable submarine, allegedly to Israel.

In 2020, Qatar signed a pact with Italian-based shipbuilding firm Fincantieri SpA to build submarines as part of a larger project involving the construction of a naval base and maintenance of its military fleet. The project now seems to have been dropped.

Even after the spy case broke out, Israel did not officially comment on the issue. But Al Jazeera said Tel Aviv “has stakes in preventing the development of military technologies across the Middle East, as it fears it could undercut its United States-backed military edge.”

The arrests reportedly happened on 30 August, 2022, under the cover of darkness. The Qatar’s State Security Bureau, their spy agency, did not inform the Indian Embassy about the arrest and only a month later could they call their families to inform them about the development.

There were speculations that the ex-Indian Navy officers were being “framed” by Pakistani intelligence agencies. But, Indian officials never confirmed these rumours. Indian Ambassador to Qatar and the Deputy Chief of Mission met them in prison and they had legal representation in court. This hinted that the Indian government are aware of the charges, but has decided against revealing them to the public.

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