In 2019, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, one of the persons sentenced to death, was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest honor conferred on overseas Indians
In a shocking development, the Court of First instance of Qatar has passed a verdict of death penalty for the eight former naval officers who were detained in Doha.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it is “deeply shocked” by the verdict and now awaits the detailed judgement. “We have initial information that the Court of First Instance of Qatar has today passed a judgement in the case involving 8 Indian employees of Al Dahra company,” the MEA said in an official press release. “We are deeply shocked by the verdict of death penalty and are awaiting the detailed judgement. We are in touch with the family members and the legal team, and we are exploring all legal options,” it added.
“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 MEA release said.
The eight Indian nationals have been imprisoned in Qatar since October 2022 and were accused of allegedly spying on a submarine programme. New Delhi had been granted consular access to the eight Indians and had been working to secure their release. The Indian nationals had their first trial in late March.
Meetu Bhargava, who is the sister of one the officers detained and lives in Gwalior, sought help from the Indian government to bring her brother back. In a post on X on June 8 she had appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene.
The Indian Navy veterans, who were arrested in August 2022, are Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht and Sailor Ragesh Gopakumar.
All of the former Navy officers had a distinguished service record of up to 20 years in the Indian Navy and had held important positions including that of instructors in the force. In 2019, Commander Purnendu Tiwari was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest honor conferred on overseas Indians. In a post at the time, the Indian Embassy in Doha had said the award was given to Commander Tiwari for enhancing India’s image abroad.
All eight Indians worked for a private firm, Dahra Global Technologies, and Consultancy Services, which provided training and other services for Qatar’s armed forces. The company is owned by a retired squadron leader of the Royal Oman Air Force, Khamis al-Ajmi. Ajmi too was arrested along with the Indians last year but was released in November 2022.
Sources said some of the Indians on death row were working on a highly sensitive project — Italian technology-based midget submarines with stealth characteristics. In May, Al Dahra Global closed its operations in Doha and all those working there (primarily Indians) have since returned home.
The eight men were arrested by Qatar’s intelligence agency on August 30, 2022. Neither the Qatari authorities nor New Delhi made the charges against the Indian nationals public yet. According to reports, the eight men were allegedly arrested for espionage. The charges were filed against the eight Indian Navy veterans on March 25 and they are tried under Qatari law.
Their bail petitions had been rejected several times and the verdict against them was pronounced on Thursday by the Court of First Instance in Qatar.
It is learnt that the families of the former Indian Navy personnel had filed a mercy plea to the Emir of Qatar. However, there is no confirmation of it.