Death Sentence of 8 Ex-Indian Navy Officials Commuted by Qatar Appellate Court
NEW DELHI, Dec 28: The appellate court of Qatar has accepted India’s appeal and commuted the death sentence of eight former Indian Navy personnel, the ministry of external affairs said on Thursday.
“We have noted the verdict today of the Court of Appeal of Qatar in the Dahra Global case, in which the sentences have been reduced. The detailed judgement is awaited,” a media release from the Ministry said.
Eight ex-Navy personnel were sentenced to death by a Qatar court in October – for charges not yet known but believed to be for alleged espionage for Israel. Details about the reduced terms – most likely heavy jail time – are unclear since the judgement has not yet been released.
The Indian government has said it is in “close touch with the legal team, as well as family members, to decide on the next steps.” “We have stood by them since the beginning, and we will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance. We will also continue to take up the matter with Qatari authorities.”
“We have stood by them since the beginning of the matter and we will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance. We will also continue to take up the matter with the Qatari authorities,” the MEA said. “Due to the confidential and sensitive nature of proceedings of this case, it would not be appropriate to make any further comment at this juncture,” it said.
The arrested personnel are Purnendu Tiwari, Sugunakar Pakala, Amit Nagpal, and Sanjeev Gupta, who are Commanders, and Navtej Singh Gill, Birendra Kumar Verma, and Saurabh Vasisht, who are Captains. The eight is Sailor Ragesh Gopakumar. The charges against them were never made public. Several of them are highly-decorated military personnel who once commanded Indian warships, and were working for a private firm providing training and related services to Qatar’s armed forces.
India’s Ambassador to Qatar, Vipul, the family members of the jailed Indians, and Embassy officials were present in the Court of Appeal when the verdict was pronounced.
Families of the eight have flatly denied the spying allegations. They were “not engaged in espionage for Israel”, the families said. “They went to build the Qatari Navy and build that nation’s security. They could never spy. There are no proof of allegations…”
The next steps in this case are unclear now but, under the terms of a 2015 agreement, “Indian prisoners convicted in Qatar can be brought back to India to serve the remaining part of their sentence.” There is a similar provision for Qatari citizens convicted in India.
All eight have been in jail since August last year and were handed death sentences on October 26, after a brief trial in March on charges of spying on a submarine programme on behalf of Israel. They were working in Al Dahra, a Doha-based private defence services provider. Bail was denied numerous times during their incarceration and trial. An appeal was immediately lodged and, last month, the Qatari court accepted that appeal. The eight were working for Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services when arrested.
Commuting of the death sentence comes weeks after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the Qatari ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, on the side-lines of CoP28 summit in Dubai. Details of the conversation were never made public, but there was speculation this issue was discussed.