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Eight Indians on death row in Qatar file appeal in higher court, Indian diplomats meet them

New Delhi: The eight former Indian Navy officers on death row in Qatar have moved the Court of Appeal in the West Asian nation, challenging the capital punishment awarded to them by a lower court, purportedly after they were accused and convicted of spying for Israel.

The officials of the Embassy of India in Doha also recently met the incarcerated former Indian Navy officers after the Government of Qatar accepted New Delhi’s request for consular access to them. In addition to exploring legal options, India is also in touch with Qatar through diplomatic channels to bring the eight back home safely.

“They are now pursuing further legal steps, and an appeal has been filed. We will also remain engaged with the Qatari authorities on this matter,” Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said in New Delhi.

The former Indian Navy officers, 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 Ragesh, had been arrested from Doha by the Qatari intelligence service on August 30, 2022. They had all been employees of the Al Dahra company, which had been offering training and several other services to the security agencies as well as the defence forces of Qatar. The company had over 70 Indians, mostly former Indian Navy officials, on its staff. It had suspended its operations in Qatar last May, several months after its officials had been put in jail.

Though neither Doha nor New Delhi has ever officially made public the charges against the eight Indian Navy personnel, sources said that the Government of Qatar accused them of espionage, particularly of passing on intelligence to Israel about a project to build advanced submarines for the Qatari Emiri Navy.

The Court of First Instance of Qatar pronounced the verdict on October 26, awarding the death sentence to all the eight incarcerated citizens of India. New Delhi stated that it was ‘deeply shocked’ by the verdict.

“We will continue to extend all legal and consular assistance,” Bagchi said on Thursday, urging everyone not to engage in speculation considering the sensitive nature of the case. He said that the judgement was confidential and had only been shared with the legal team of the arrested Indian Navy officers.

If the Court of Appeals upholds the death sentence awarded to them by the Court of First Instance, they could knock on the doors of the Court of Cassation, the highest court of Qatar.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met the members of the families of the eight on October 30 and assured them that the government would continue to make all efforts to secure their release and return from Qatar.

(Published 09 November 2023, 13:33 IST)

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