Qatar: Indian Ambassador Meets Eight Ex-Naval Officers on Death Row

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India’s ambassador to Qatar has met eight former naval officers who have been sentenced to death in Qatar on unspecified charges.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesperson said that the diplomat met the men in prison on 3 December.

He added that a court in Qatar has held two hearings on an appeal filed by India against the verdict and a third hearing will be held soon.

The Court of First Instance of Qatar sentenced the men to death in October.

India had said then that it was “deeply shocked” and would explore all legal options.

The court order has not been made public and both countries have not revealed the specific charges against the men. The Financial Times has reported, quoting an unnamed person briefed on the case, that the men have been “charged with spying for Israel”.

Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for India’s ministry of external affairs, said in a briefing on Thursday that the court order was “confidential” and “has only been shared with the legal team”. He also asked people “not to engage in speculation” given the sensitivity of the case.

Two days before the ambassador visited the men, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai. Mr Modi said on X (formerly Twitter) that the two leaders had discussed issues including “the well-being of the Indian community in Qatar”.

The Indian government has said that the eight men were employees of a private company called Al Dahra, but they have been widely reported to be former personnel of the Indian Navy. Last year, in parliament, foreign minister S Jaishankar described them as “ex-servicemen” of the country. The families of some of the men have also confirmed their identities and background in the Navy to local media.

Their arrest in August last year had made front-page headlines in India, but there has been little confirmed information about the case against them.

More than 700,000 Indians live in Qatar and the two countries share cordial relations. But political observers are closely watching the outcome of this case, and some have termed it a test for India’s diplomatic abilities.

Source : BBC