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Qatar commutes death sentences for Indian ex-navy officers convicted of spying

Byusanewscart.com

Dec 28, 2023

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Indian foreign ministry released a statement confirming the reduction in sentences

A Qatar court on October 26 handed death sentence to eight former Indian Navy officials who are currently detained in the Gulf country. —AFP
A Qatar court on October 26 handed death sentence to eight former Indian Navy officials who are currently detained in the Gulf country. —AFP

A Qatari court has decided to commute the death sentences of eight former Indian naval officers, whose specific charges remain undisclosed by both Qatar and India. 

The Indian foreign ministry released a statement confirming the reduction in sentences but refrained from specifying the nature of the new penalties.

Unconfirmed reports from FT and Reuters, citing anonymous sources, suggest that the officers were charged with espionage for Israel. Israel’s embassy in India, however, declined to comment, emphasising that it was “not an Israeli matter.” The secrecy surrounding the case has led to limited information regarding the charges, with the court’s order remaining undisclosed.

India expressed profound shock in October when the death sentences were initially handed down, prompting the government to file an appeal against the verdict. The arrested individuals, reported to be former Indian Navy personnel working for the private company Al Dahra, were not publicly identified by the court.

While the Indian government officially described them as “ex-servicemen” in parliament, the families of some of the men confirmed their backgrounds in the Navy to local media. Last year, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar acknowledged their employment at Al Dahra.

In a recent development, India’s ambassador to Qatar visited the imprisoned men, and during Thursday’s court hearing, Indian officials, along with family members, were present in the Court of Appeal of Qatar.

The Indian foreign ministry emphasised the confidential nature of the proceedings, stating, “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.” 

The ministry is awaiting the detailed judgment and is in close communication with legal representatives and the families to determine the next steps.

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