Qatar drops death sentence for eight Indian ex-naval officers

India says government in ‘close touch’ with legal team as well as family members of eight people arrested in August last year

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Thursday 28 December 2023 12:07

Related: Qatar promises improvements for World Cup migrant workers

A Qatar court has dropped the death penalty for eight Indian ex-naval officers arrested in the Arab country last year, the Indian government 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," said India's foreign ministry, adding that details of the judgment were awaited.

It added that the government was in "close touch" with the legal team as well as the family members of the eight people arrested in August last year.

The reduced sentence comes as a big diplomatic victory for New Delhi after officials filed an appeal in November against capital punishment.

The eight men were sentenced to death by a court on unspecified charges on 26 October.

The Indian ambassador to Qatar and other officials were present in court along with the families of the eight arrested during the hearing.

The foreign ministry 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".

India responded with shock after the eight high-ranking former officers were charged amid allegations of spying while working at Al Dahra, a consulting company in the oil-rich Gulf state that advises the Qatari government on submarine acquisitions.

The veterans have been identified as Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, and Sailor Rajesh.

The men have been in solitary confinement since being arrested, according to local media reports.

Family members of the veterans vehemently refuted the allegations of them being engaged in espionage.

“They went to build the Qatari Navy and build that nation’s security. They could never spy. There are no proof of allegations...,” a family member was quoted by NDTV as saying.

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi met Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai in December, just days before the Indian ambassador was allowed to meet the convicts.

It was unclear whether Mr Modi raised the issue with the emir.

More than 800,000 Indian citizens live and work in Qatar, which is also a significant provider of natural gas for India.

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