The eight were employees of Al Dahra Global Technologies, a pvt firm that provided training and other services to Qatar’s armed forces and security agencies.
NEW DELHI: A court in Qatar on Thursday gave the death sentence to eight former Indian Navy personnel held on unspecified charges since August 2022, with the Indian government expressing deep shock at the verdict and saying it is “exploring all legal options”.
The sentence was handed down by Qatar’s Court of First Instance, and no details were released officially by authorities in Doha. The external affairs ministry declined to make any further comment citing the “confidential nature of proceedings” in the case against the eight men.
The eight former naval personnel were all working for Al Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, a private firm owned by an ex-Oman Air Force officer that provided training and other services to Qatar’s armed forces and security agencies.
In a statement, the external affairs ministry said New Delhi received initial information about Qatar’s Court of First Instance passing a judgment in the case involving the eight Indian employees of Al Dahra.
“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,” the statement said without giving details.
“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.
It added: “Due to the confidential nature of proceedings of this case, it would not be appropriate to make any further comment at this juncture.”
The case has been surrounded by uncertainty as both the Indian and Qatari sides maintained complete silence on the charges against the eight men.
At a briefing on October 19, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi finally confirmed in response to a question from HT that charges had been presented against the eight men as part of the hearings but declined to go into details. f
Soon after the men were detained, Al Dahra’s website said that it was under maintenance and the firm’s listing on Linkedin was removed. The firm earlier described itself as a “local business partner” for the Qatari armed forces.
The officers among the detained men have been decorated with military and civilian honours and some have held senior positions in the Indian Navy. Commander (retired) Purnendu Tiwari, who is among the detained Indians, served as Al Dahra’s managing director and commanded several warships while serving with the navy.
The bail pleas of the men were rejected numerous times and their detention extended by Qatari authorities. For a long time, they were held in solitary confinement and not allowed to meet their families. Following the intervention of Indian authorities, officials from the Indian embassy in Qatar were given consular access to the men and meetings and phone calls were arranged with their relatives.
The seventh hearing in the case was held on October 3, when it became clear that a judgment was expected this month.
India’s ambassador in Qatar and his deputy met the men in prison on October 1 after being granted consular access.
People familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that the eight men were charged with espionage. The people said an Indian journalist and their spouse were recently ordered by Qatari authorities to leave the country for reporting on the case.
The silence of Qatari authorities on the matter was perceived as surprising, given the West Asian country’s good relations with India. While India has significantly stepped up defence cooperation with countries such as Saudi Arabia only in recent years, it has had strong defence ties with Qatar for much longer.
The website of the Indian embassy in Doha describes defence cooperation as “an important pillar of our bilateral agenda”. India offers training slots in its defence institutions to Qatar, and Indian Navy and Coast Guard ships regularly visit Qatar as part of the bilateral cooperation. India and Qatar signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement in November 2008.