A court in Qatar has sentenced eight former Indian Navy officers to death after detaining them for more than a year on charges of spying for a foreign country.
The officers are accused by the Qatar State Security, their intelligence service, of passing confidential information about the Qatari Navy's in-construction diesel-electric submarine to Israel.
These officers were reportedly arrested on 30 August last year and have been under detention, reportedly kept in solitary confinement. Their bail pleas have also been rejected eight times by the Qatari authorities.
Here‘s what has happened in the last twenty-four hours:
(1) Ministry of External Affair (MEA) statement
The MEA has released a statement expressing deep shock over the death penalty verdict and awaiting the detailed judgment.
The MEA said "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."
They emphasise the importance of the case and are providing consular access to the officers, further stating that they intend to take up the verdict with Qatari authorities.
"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.
(2) Oppositions' Reaction to the death sentence
The opposition leaders has called on the Government of India (GoI) to strongly take up the case with the Qatari government and use its influence to bring the veterans back to India as soon as possible.
Hyderabad-based All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief, Asaduddin Owaisi, criticised PM Modi, urging him to use his influence to bring back the officers, considering his relationship with "Islamic countries."
He said, "In August, I had raised the issue of our ex-naval officers stuck in Qatar. Today they have been sentenced to death. Narendra Modi has boasted about how much 'Islamic countries' love him. He must bring our ex-naval officers back. It’s very unfortunate that they face the death row."
Congress MP Manish Tewari stated "this is not a matter where we need to indulge in 'he said, she said' or score brownie points. The lives of eight very senior naval personnel are at stake," the Congress MP said.
"Today we get to know that all 8 have been sentenced to death. Their families were never informed what the charges against them were. Even the Lawyer engaged for their defence was I am informed evasive with the families," Tiwari added.
He asked Prime Minister to take this at a highest level with the Qatari government and bring the officers back. He said, "PMO should take it up at the highest level with the Government of Qatar and bring our Former Naval officers back home by getting their sentences commuted immediately."
Another Congress leader Jairam Ramesh stated, "the Indian National Congress has noted with the greatest anguish, distress and shock the most disturbing developments in Qatar regarding eight former officers of the Indian Navy."
(3) Qatar expelled an Indian journalist for reporting over the incident
An Indian journalist reporting on the detention and subsequent death sentencing of the former naval officers has been expelled by the Qatari government, reported Hindustan Times.
The journalist and their spouse have returned to India following the expelling, the report states without giving more details.
(4) Social media outrage over Qatar's action
Social media users have expressed their anger and called on the Indian government to take action against the Qatari government.
Some are urging the government to cut liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from Qatar, potentially causing financial harm to the Qatari government, given its status as the world's largest LNG exporter and India as the fourth largest LNG importer.
According to a Qatari trade official, "India was the gas-rich Gulf state’s second-largest trade partner. The official added that trade volume between the two countries had increased by about a third in 2021 and 2022 to reach $17.2bn."
Social media discussions also include calls for sending BrahMos supersonic land-attack cruise missile-armed warships close to Qatari shores to intimidate the Qatari government into releasing the incarcerated officers.
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