New Delhi: The Indian ambassador to Qatar recently met eight former Indian Navy personnel on death row, and two hearings occurred for an appeal challenging the capital punishment imposed by a Qatari court, Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said during a media briefing on Thursday, December 7.
“As you know, we filed an appeal that is from the families and the detainees. Two hearings have since been held. One, I think on November 30 and the other on November 23,” news agency Press Trust of India reported Bagchi as saying.
Bagchi added that the ministry is closely monitoring the situation and providing comprehensive legal and consular assistance.
“I think the next hearing is coming up soon. We are closely following the matter and extending all legal and consular assistance. Meanwhile, our ambassador got consular access to meet all eight of the men in prison on December 3. We will continue to follow (the matter),” he said.
On October 26, the navy veterans were given death sentence by Qatar’s Court of First Instance. India described the ruling as “deeply” shocking and vowed to explore all legal options in the case.
An appeal was filed against the death sentence by the family members of the Indians.
When questioned about whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the issue with Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani during their meeting on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai last week, Bagchi did not provide a direct response.
Instead, he referred to Modi’s post on X (formerly Twitter), saying, “We had a meaningful conversation on the potential of bilateral partnership and the well-being of the Indian community in Qatar,” as quoted by the prime minister.
On the sidelines of the #COP28 Summit in Dubai yesterday, had the opportunity to meet HH Sheikh @TamimBinHamad, the Amir of Qatar. We had a good conversation on the potential of bilateral partnership and the well-being of the Indian community in Qatar. pic.twitter.com/66a2Zxb6gP— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 2, 2023
These eight individuals were arrested in August 2022, reportedly in an alleged case of espionage. They worked with a private company Al Dahra.
In its reaction to the ruling by the Qatari court, the MEA last month had said that it is attaching “high importance” to this case and is exploring all legal options.
The charges were filed against the eight Indian Navy veterans on March 25 and they were tried under Qatari law. The first hearing of the trial at the Court of First instance took place on March 29 this year.
Former military officials told PTI that all the former Navy officers, facing the death penalty in Qatar, had “unblemished stints” of up to 20 years in the Indian Navy, holding significant positions, including that of instructors in the force.