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Diplomacy

Qatar Court Commutes Indian Navy Veterans' Death Sentence to Prison Terms

The external affairs ministry said it would not make any further comments at this juncture “due to the confidential and sensitive nature of proceedings of this case”.

New Delhi: Two months after sentencing eight Indian Navy veterans to death, Qatar’s Court of Appeal reduced their capital punishment to imprisonment of varying terms on Thursday (December 28).

In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) noted the “verdict today of the Court of Appeal of Qatar in the Dahra Global case, in which the sentences have been reduced”.

The ministry said that Vipul, the Indian ambassador to Qatar, as well as the veterans’ family members were present in the Court of Appeal when the order was delivered.

Stating that a detailed judgement is awaited, the MEA said that it was “in close touch with the legal team as well as the family members to decide on the next steps”.

As usual, the ministry explained that it would not make any further comments at this juncture “due to the confidential and sensitive nature of proceedings of this case”.

“We have stood by them since the beginning of the matter and we will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance. We will also continue to take up the matter with the Qatari authorities,” it added.

There was no mention of the extent to which the veterans’ sentences were reduced, but it is understood that they have been given varying prison terms.

The eight men are Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commodore Amit Nagpal, Commodore Purnendu Tiwari, Commodore Sugunakar Pakala, Commodore Sanjeev Gupta and Sailor Ragesh.

On October 26, Qatar’s Court of First Instance handed the death penalty to the veterans, who had been detained for over a year.

Employed by the now-defunct Omani private firm Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, they were contracted for providing training and related services to Qatar’s armed forces. 

While the charges have never been made public, media reports hinted at the possibility of their being charged with espionage.

India had said that it was “deeply shocked” by the October verdict, but had even then refrained from making further comments.

About four weeks later, the Court of Appeal accepted for deliberations the Indian government’s appeal against the veterans’ death sentence.

The opposition Congress party expressed relief with the Court of Appeals’ decision in Qatar to reduce the death penalty for eight Indian Navy veterans. The party expressed hope that not only will their jail sentences be overturned but also that they will be released.

“The Indian National Congress shares its immediate relief along with the entire nation that the Court of Appeals in Qatar has decided not to go ahead with the death penalty on 8 former Indian Navy officers. While fuller details are awaited we express the hope that even the jail sentence that has replaced the death penalty will be set aside and the officers will be set free,” Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh wrote in a post on X.

With the commutation of their death sentences, the eight Indians become eligible for repatriation to India under the 2015 bilateral agreement for the transfer of sentenced persons, which allows prisoners to serve their sentence in their home country.