Eight former Indian Navy men sentenced to death in Qatar ‘spying’ case


A court in Qatar has announced the death sentence to eight former Indian Navy personnel. The sentence was handed down by Qatar’s Court of First Instance. The men were taken into custody in August last year in an alleged case of espionage. The charges, however, have not been made public by the Qatari authorities.

At the time of being taken into custody on August 30, 2022, the naval personnel – seven officers and one sailor – were working at Al Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, owned by an Oman Air Force officer that provided training and other services to Qatar’s armed forces and security agencies. They were believed to have been overseeing the induction of Italian-made midget stealth submarines into the Qatari Navy.

India is still awaiting the detailed judgment. “We are deeply shocked by the verdict of death penalty and are awaiting the detailed judgment. We are in touch with the family members and the legal team, and we are exploring all legal options,” a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said. “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 statement said. “Due to the confidential nature of proceedings of this case, it would not be appropriate to make any further comment at this juncture,” the statement added.

The men had been kept in solitary confinement and not allowed to meet their families. Following intervention by Indian authorities, officials from the Indian embassy in Qatar were given consular access and meetings and phone calls were arranged with their relatives. The men were also moved to double-bed rooms in the jail ward with their colleagues. India’s ambassador to Qatar met the men in prison in October.

The detained men were decorated with military and civilian honours and some have held senior positions in the Indian Navy. The detained are: Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Purnendu Tiwari (recipient of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award in 2019, and served as Al Dahra’s managing director), Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta and Sailor Ragesh.

Soon after the detention, Al Dahra’s website stated that it was under maintenance and the firm’s listing on Linkedin was removed. The company which earlier described itself as a ‘local business partner’ for the Qatari armed forces closed its operations in Doha on May 30, 2023, and all the employees, mostly Indians, returned home.

Those familiar with the matter said bail pleas were rejected several times with the last plea being rejected on March 15. On March 25, charges were filed and they were informed of being tried under Qatari law. The seventh hearing in the case was held on October 3, and it was known that a judgment would happen this month. An Indian journalist in Qatar who reported the case was allegedly asked to leave the country. The families of the men have filed a mercy plea to the emir of Qatar.

India has always maintained strong defence ties with Qatar and the silence from Doha on the matter has been perceived as surprising, given the country’s good relations with India.


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