Seven retired officers of the Indian Navy and one retired sailor were on Thursday sentenced to death by a Qatar court on charges that have not been made public despite the eight being in custody for over a year.
The external affairs ministry’s early response to information on the verdict was "shock" and an announcement that all legal options would be explored.
The death sentence was ordered by the Court of First Instance of Qatar, according to the MEA which is now awaiting the detailed judgment. "We are deeply shocked by the verdict of death penalty…. We are in touch with the family members and the legal team, and we are exploring all legal options," the ministry said.
"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 ministry added that “due to the confidential nature of proceedings of this case, it would not be appropriate to make any further comment at this juncture”.
Neither Qatar nor India has officially disclosed the nature of the crime the eight are alleged to have committed and which led to their arrest over a year ago. Doha has ignored New Delhi’s efforts to use their robust bilateral relationship to secure the release of the eight.
Media reports have suggested that the eight former naval personnel were arrested for spying on Qatar’s submarine programme for Israel but there has never been an official confirmation.
The eight veterans are Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Purenendu Tiwari, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal and Sailor Ragesh.
All eight were working for Al Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, a company that provides defence services and is owned by an ex-Omani air force officer. The company provided training and other services to Qatar’s armed forces and security agencies.
For the initial weeks after their arrest in August 2022, the eight did not get consular access.
Subsequently, their families were allowed to meet them but the shroud of secrecy over their arrest never lifted.