New Delhi: Eight Indians who had served with distinction with the Indian Navy in various posts and have been kept in solitary confinement in Qatar for the past eight months face stringent charges of spying, including the possibility of the death penalty, at the next court hearing on May 3, reports The Tribune.
Those charged are Capt Navtej Singh Gill, Capt Birendra Kumar Verma, Capt Saurabh Vasisht, Cdr Amit Nagpal, Cdr Purnendu Tiwari, Cdr Sugunakar Pakala, Cdr Sanjeev Gupta and Sailor Ragesh.
The eight former Indian Navy personnel have been charged with spying for Israel with Qatari authorities said to be in possession of electronic evidence in this regard, reports the newspaper. They were among many Indian Navy veterans employed by Dahra Global Technologies to work on a highly sensitive project to build Italian technology-based midget submarines with stealth characteristics.
Citing official Indian sources, ANI reports that the “case has now been taken up at the highest possible level by the Indian agencies but the Qatari government has not shown any signs of relenting on the issue”. Sources told the news agency that there is a possibility of the ex-Indian Navy officers being “framed” by Pakistani intelligence agencies.
Charges have also been framed against two Qataris, including former Oman Air Force officer Khamis al-Ajmi, who is the CEO of Dahra Global. Qatar’s Head of International Military Operations, Maj Gen Tariq Khalid Al Obaidly, is the other Qatari national to be charged, as per The Tribune.
The employees have been informed that the company is shutting operations at the end of May. They will be paid a severance package as per the terms of their contract.
India’s political leadership has so far been silent about the fate of these men or its high-level engagement with the Qatari political leadership to get them released. In his weekly press briefings, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said, “We are engaged with the Qatari authorities. Our embassy in Doha continues to remain in touch with the families. The next day of the hearing is in early May. We are trying to see what can be done before that in connection with that hearing.”