Qatar sentenced eight former Indian naval officers to death after finding them guilty of spying on the Gulf state's submarine program for Israel, according to a report by the Financial Times. India condemned the death sentences on Friday and said it will explore all legal avenues to reverse the verdict.
Last year, Doha detained the eight men who worked for a private company providing training to Qatar's armed forces on espionage charges. Neither Qatar nor India have revealed what the men were found guilty of, but a person briefed on the case told the Financial Times the men had been charged with spying for Israel.
The Hindu newspaper also reported that Doha accused the men of "breaching sensitive secrets" after speaking to their families. Middle East Eye could not independently verify the claims.
A spokesperson for the Qatari government said it would not comment on claims the Indian men were handed a death sentence for espionage charges.
Death sentences in Qatar are rare, with the last execution in 2020 and the one before that in 2003, according to the source who spoke to the Financial Times. India confirmed that Qatari police had detained the eight men in August last year.
In a statement, India's external affairs ministry said the men worked for a private company called Al-Dahra Global Technologies & Consultancy Services, and that it placed "high importance to this case and has been following it closely".
“The ministry will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance and will also take up the verdict with Qatari authorities,” the Indian statement said. Al-Dahra, a private firm, provides training and related services to Qatar's armed forces. Sources told NDTV in India that the men were working on a high-sensitivity project that involved Italian midget submarines with stealth characteristics.
Last year, India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said the men were "ex-servicemen", with families of the men also confirming to local media that they had also served in the Indian navy.
Qatar has no formal relations with Israel but has played a central role in international efforts to free hostages held by Hamas and to de-escalate the current situation in Gaza.
Wild timing: "Qatar sentenced eight Indian former naval officers to death on Thursday after finding them guilty of spying on the Gulf state’s submarine programme for Israel." They had been arrested in August 2022. https://t.co/cmPykEX8z5— Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) October 27, 2023
Earlier this week, Israel's national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, praised Qatar's efforts to secure the release of hostages and said they were "crucial at this time" in a social media post. "I’m pleased to say that Qatar is becoming an essential party and stakeholder in the facilitation of humanitarian solutions. Qatar’s diplomatic efforts are crucial at this time," Hanegbi posted on X.
Qatar is home to hundreds of thousands of Indian workers who comprise much of the Gulf state's migrant workforce.