Roving Periscope: Qatar court commutes death sentence of 8 ex-Indian Navy officers
New Delhi: With the success of deft diplomacy and back-channel talks, India felt some relief on Thursday when a Qatar court commuted the death sentence of eight former Indian Navy officers to imprisonment in an alleged case of espionage.
The Indian nationals, all employees of Doha-based company Dahra Global, were taken into custody in August 2022. The charges against them were not made public by the Qatari authorities. A section of the media claimed they were charged with spying for Israel.
In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday the sentence has been reduced. The appellate court in Qatar has commuted the death sentence handed to eight former Indian Navy officers. A detailed court order is awaited.
“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 MEA said.
“The detailed judgment is awaited. We are in close touch with the legal team as well as the family members to decide on the next steps.”
The Indian Ambassador to Qatar and other officials were present in the Court of Appeal, alongside the family members. “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.
This judgment came a few weeks after New Delhi appealed against the death penalty, handed to the men for alleged espionage charges by a Qatar court on October 26. An appeal filed before an appellate court in the country was accepted in the last week of November.
In August 2022, these eight former Indian Navy officers, employed by Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services in Qatar, were detained on charges of espionage. These officers, including highly decorated commanders and captains, faced delays in legal proceedings, with the situation taking a grim turn when they were sentenced to death on October 26, 2022.
The families of the Navy veterans sought support from External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar after the shocking death sentences were announced. Subsequently, on November 24, a Qatar court accepted the appeal against the death sentences, offering some hope for a relaxation in the extreme punishments.
Dr. Jaishankar and other senior officers had assured the family members of the Indian Navy veterans about extending all help to the incarcerated officers.
For the first time since the eight Navy veterans were handed the death sentence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit in Dubai, UAE, on December 4 to discuss bilateral partnership and the “well-being of the Indian community” living in Qatar.