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  World   Middle East  29 Dec 2023  Qatar court commutes death sentence of 8 Navy veterans

Qatar court commutes death sentence of 8 Navy veterans

THE ASIAN AGE. | SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Dec 29, 2023, 12:57 am IST
Updated : Dec 29, 2023, 12:57 am IST

The legal battle is however not concluded, as the eight individuals have not been acquitted

The Qatari Court's decision provides substantial relief to the individuals who had challenged the initial verdict. (Representational Image)
 The Qatari Court's decision provides substantial relief to the individuals who had challenged the initial verdict. (Representational Image)

New Delhi: In a significant turn of events, the Qatari Court of Appeal, at its fourth and final hearing on Thursday, commuted the death penalty for eight Indians and former Navy personnel, who were earlier sentenced to death by the Qatari Court of First Instance on October 26 on espionage charges. The Qatari Court's decision provides substantial relief to the individuals who had challenged the initial verdict. While the detailed judgment is awaited, New Delhi confirmed that the sentences have been "reduced" without specifying the new terms.

Observers view these developments as a measured diplomatic win and immediate relief for India. However, the legal battle is not concluded, as the eight individuals have not been acquitted. New Delhi affirmed its commitment to stand by its nationals, extending consular and legal assistance, and pledged to continue addressing the matter with Qatari authorities.

New Delhi noted the Qatari Court of Appeal's verdict and stated that it is in close touch with the legal team and family members to decide on the next steps. The Indian Ambassador to Qatar, along with other officials, was present in the Court of Appeal during the hearing.

The possibility of a royal pardon by the Qatar Emir in the future is being considered, given the ongoing uncertainties. Another speculated option is the potential transfer of the eight Indians to India to serve reduced jail terms under a treaty between India and Qatar, allowing the relocation of sentenced persons for proximity to their families. Additionally, there is speculation about the individuals approaching the Court of Cassation, the highest court in the Qatari judicial system, to seek acquittal and challenge their prison terms.

The eight former naval personnel, identified as Navtej Singh Gill, Birendra Kumar Verma, Saurabh Vashisht, Amit Nagpal, Purnendu Tiwari, Sugunakar Pakala, Sanjeev Gupta, and Ragesh, were accused by Qatar of spying for Israel on a secret programme related to stealth submarines. They were employees of Oman-based company Dahra Global Technologies and Consulting Services, advising on a Qatari submarine programme. The individuals were detained in August last year, convicted in October, and sentenced to death.

The charges against the eight Indians have not been officially disclosed by Qatar, and New Delhi has refrained from publicly stating the specifics. The Qatari Court of Appeal's hearing followed previous sessions on November 23, November 30, and December 7, after accepting the legal appeal filed by the individuals against the initial death penalty verdict. India had earlier expressed "deep shock" at the October 26 verdict and emphasised its commitment to exploring all legal options and providing consular and legal assistance. The latest developments come after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during the COP 28 Summit in Dubai about four weeks ago.

Tags: death penalty, indian navy, espionage case, qatari court of appeal