India appeals against death sentences handed down on former naval officers in Qatar

The eight men were working for a private company providing services to the Gulf state's armed forces

Some of the eight veterans had served for up to 20 years in the Indian Navy. Reuters
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New Delhi has appealed against the death sentences handed down on eight former Indian Navy employees by a court in Qatar, India’s External Affairs Ministry has said.

The eight men, including decorated officers, were working 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.

They were arrested by Qatari authorities in August last year and were sentenced last month after a trial that began in March. The charges against them have not been made public by Qatari or Indian authorities.

The judgment is confidential and has been shared with the legal team only. They are currently examining the next legal steps,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said on Thursday.

“An appeal has also been filed … we are also in contact with the Qatari authorities on this matter,” he told reporters.

“On November 7, our Embassy got another round of consular access, during which we met with these eight individuals, and we are in contact with their family members as well. We will provide as much legal and consular assistance as we can.”

He emphasised the “very sensitive nature” of the matter.

New Delhi expressed “deep shock” when the men were sentenced to death on October 26.

They have been identified as Capt Navtej Singh Gill, Cdr Purenendu Tiwari, Capt Saurabh Vasisht, Cdr Sanjeev Gupta, Capt Birendra Kumar Verma, Cdr Sugunakar Pakala, Cdr Amit Nagpal and sailor Ragesh Gopakumar.

All of them served had served at least 20 years with the Indian Navy.

Cdr Tiwari was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2019, the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians, by the Indian embassy in Doha for enhancing the country's image abroad.

According to reports in the Indian media, the men were working on a project to build midget submarines with stealth capabilities and were accused of spying for Israel.

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

The case has piled political pressure on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as opposition leaders demand that that his government take steps to bring the men back home.

External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said last week that he had met the men's families and assured them of the government’s full support as it works to secure their release.

Updated: November 10, 2023, 7:49 AM