In a concerning development, eight former Indian Navy officers have been sentenced to death by a court in Qatar, after detention for more than a year on charges of spying for a foreign country.
The Qatar State Security, their intelligence service, is accusing them of spying and passing confidential information to a foreign state.
Here's what we know so far about this troubling incident:
(1) Who are these officers?
The eight individuals who have been sentenced to death are Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, and Sailor Ragesh.
These veterans previously served in the Indian Navy and, after retirement, transitioned to work for a private firm in Qatar.
Notably, among these eight officers, one former Naval Commander, Purnendu Tiwari, was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2019 for his services to India.
(2) When were they first arrested?
They were detained by the Qatari intelligence service in Doha, Qatar, in August last year. They have been held in detention for well over a year without the charges against them being publicly disclosed.
According to earlier reports, these officers were kept in solitary confinement, and their bail pleas have been rejected eight times by the Qatari authorities.
(3) Which private company were they working for?
These former Navy officers were employed by Dahra Global Consultancy Services, a private firm owned by a former Oman Air Force Officer, Khamis al-Ajmi, who was also briefly detained but later released.
Dahra Global Technologies, after a brief shutdown following al-Ajmi's release, has resumed operations.
They were reportedly engaged in providing training to the Qatari Navy.
(4) What are they accused of?
The detained Indian Navy personnel have been charged with espionage on behalf of Israel.
The Qatari Navy had, in 2021, signed a deal with an Italian shipyard, Fincantieri SpA, for constructing two diesel-electric submarines.
The Qatar State Security, the state intelligence agency, claimed to have intercepted electronic communications establishing that the naval officers were spying on this submarine program.
Reportedly, they are accused of transferring confidential data on metamaterials used to enhance the submarines' stealth capabilities.
(5) What has the Indian Government said?
The MEA has released a statement saying "that they 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 are exploring all legal options."
The MEA said that they are waiting for the details of the judgment, and they will continue to provide consular access to the officers.
"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 authorites," the MEA further stated.
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