India says Qatar court drops death penalty for arrested Indian navy veterans

The eight men were arrested in Doha in August 2022

All eight men were former members of the Indian Navy. Reuters
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A Qatar court has dropped the death sentence for eight Indian ex-navy personnel arrested in the country last year, India's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

The eight men were handed the death penalty in October.

Indian media reported that the eight Indian nationals, among them former high-ranking and decorated officers, including captains who once commanded warships, were arrested in Doha in August 2022.

The eight men are Capt Navtej Singh Gill, Capt Saurabh Vasisht, Capt Birendra Kumar Verma, Cmdr Purenendu Tiwari, Cmdr Sanjeev Gupta, Cmdr Sugunakar Pakala, Cmdr Amit Nagpal and sailor Ragesh Gopakumar. All of them served at least 20 years with India's navy.

“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 Foreign Ministry said.

“Our Ambassador to Qatar and other officials were present in the Court of Appeal today, along with the family members,” it added.

“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’s Foreign Ministry said.

The men had worked in Doha for Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, an Oman-based private company that provided training and related services to Qatar's armed forces.

The specific charges against the men have not yet been made public by either country. Media reports have said they were accused of spying on behalf of Israel.

The men were reportedly working on a project to build midget submarines with stealth capabilities.

The owner of the company was also arrested, but was reportedly released in November last year.

The case has raised potential issues for India-Qatar relations.

More than 800,000 Indian citizens live in Qatar, which has a total population of around 2.7 million people.

India's bilateral trade with Qatar in the financial year ending March 2022 was $16.8 billion, according to India's Ministry of External Affairs.

Updated: December 29, 2023, 12:38 PM