Revised Sentences for Ex-Indian Navy Personnel in Qatar

The new verdict, announced on Thursday, replaces the previous death penalty with jail terms ranging from three to 25 years.

The sentences of eight ex-Indian Navy officers in Qatar, who were convicted in the Dahra Global case, have been reduced by the Court of Appeal. The new verdict, announced on Thursday, replaces the previous death penalty with jail terms ranging from three to 25 years.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of India has confirmed this development, but the detailed judgment is still awaited. The Indian Ambassador to Qatar, along with other officials, was present in the court when the verdict was announced. Family members of the convicted officers were also in attendance.

The eight officers, namely Captains Navtej Singh Gill, Birendra Kumar Verma, Saurabh Vasisht, Commanders Amit Nagpal, Purnendu Tiwari, Sugunakar Pakala, Sanjeev Gupta, and Sailor Rajesh, were employed by Dahra Global, a company based in Doha. They were arrested in August 2022, and a chargesheet was filed against them in March 2023. On October 26, 2023, the Qatari court initially sentenced them to death.

Qatari authorities have not disclosed the specific charges against these Indian citizens. However, sources have alleged that the former Navy officials were accused of spying for Israel. Both Qatari and Indian authorities have not provided any further details regarding the charges.

India’s Response and Diplomatic Efforts

The Indian government has expressed its deep concern and surprise regarding the initial ruling, prompting them to engage in extensive diplomatic discussions with the Qatari authorities. In addition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the well-being of the Indian community during a meeting with Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at the COP28 summit in Dubai. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, COP28, Dubai, Arindam Bagchi,

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi recently outlined India’s strategy in dealing with the case during a press conference. He emphasized that the government’s primary focus is to repatriate the convicted officers back to India as soon as possible.

Furthermore, the MEA has assured that the Indian government will continue to provide full consular and legal support to the convicted officers while persistently pursuing the matter with the Qatari authorities.

The families of the eight men received news of the ruling by Qatar’s Court of Appeal. According to sources familiar with the matter, the death sentence has been removed as an option, and instead, the prison terms range from a few years to several years. Another source mentioned that the prison terms vary from three years to 10, 15, and 25 years.

This commutation of the death sentence opens up the possibility for India to invoke a 2015 agreement with Qatar regarding the transfer of sentenced individuals. Under this agreement, Indian and Qatari citizens who have been convicted and sentenced for criminal offences can serve their sentences in their respective home countries. However, it is important to note that this agreement does not apply to individuals sentenced to death.

The Ministry of External Affairs stated that the Indian side is closely coordinating with the legal team and the families of the eight men to determine the next steps. During the delivery of the verdict on Thursday, the Indian ambassador to Qatar and other officials were present in the Court of Appeal alongside the family members.

“We have been supporting them since the beginning of this matter, and we will continue to provide consular and legal assistance. We will also persist in addressing the issue with the Qatari authorities,” the statement from the ministry affirmed.

Due to the confidential and sensitive nature of the case proceedings, the ministry added that it would not be appropriate to make any further comments at this time.

Sources indicate that the Indian side will collaborate with the legal team to explore various options, including the possibility of filing another appeal against the prison terms given to the men. This is part of an ongoing process that will continue to unfold.

The Court of First Instance in Qatar sentenced eight men, who were decorated officers in the Indian Navy and commanded frontline warships, to death on October 26. These individuals had been detained for over a year. The verdict shocked the external affairs ministry, which expressed its deep shock and promised to explore all legal options to assist the former naval personnel.

Following the initial verdict, Qatar’s Court of Appeal conducted three hearings on November 23, November 30, and December 7. On December 3, the Indian ambassador was granted consular access to meet with the eight men.

Before this, the families of these men had appealed to the emir of Qatar for their pardon. It is customary for the emir to grant pardons to prisoners on Qatar’s national day, which falls on December 18, as well as during the Eid festivals.

The eight men were employed by a subsidiary of Dahra Engineering & Security Services, an Oman-based company that provided training and other services to Qatar’s armed forces. However, the subsidiary was closed down in May of this year. The Indian government is actively working to repatriate the convicted officers, and the case is still unfolding.