Big Relief For 8 Indian Navy Veterans On Death Row In Qatar

Eight ex-Navy personnel sentenced to death by a Qatar court in October – for charges not yet known – will face commuted punishments, the Indian government said this afternoon. Details about the reduced terms – most likely heavy jail time – are unclear since the judgement has not yet been released.

The Indian government has said it is in “close touch with the legal team, as well as family members, to decide on the next steps”. “We have stood by them since the beginning, and we will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance. We will also continue to take up the matter with Qatari authorities.”

The arrested personnel are Purnendu Tiwari, Sugunakar Pakala, Amit Nagpal, and Sanjeev Gupta, who are Commanders, and Navtej Singh Gill, Birendra Kumar Verma, and Saurabh Vasisht, who are Captains. The eight is Sailor Ragesh Gopakumar. The charges against them were never made public.

Several of them are highly-decorated military personnel who once commanded Indian warships, and were working for a private firm providing training and related services to Qatar’s armed forces.

Families of the eight spoke to NDTV and flatly denied the spying allegations.

READ | “Went To Build Qatar’s Security”: Families Of Indian Sailors On Death Row

They were “not engaged in espionage for Israel”, the families said. “They went to build the Qatari Navy and build that nation’s security. They could never spy. There are no proof of allegations…”

READ | 8 Navy Veterans Get Death In Qatar, “Shocked” India To Contest Order

All eight have been in jail since August last year and were handed death sentences on October 26, after a brief trial in March. Bail was denied numerous times during their incarceration and trial.

An appeal was immediately lodged and, last month, the Qatari court accepted that appeal. The eight were working for Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services when arrested.

READ | Qatar Accepts India’s Appeal Against Death Penalty To 8 Navy Veterans

Commuting of the death sentence comes weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the Qatari ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, on the side-lines of CoP28 summit in Dubai.

READ | Indian Envoy Meets 8 Navy Veterans On Death Row In Qatar

Details of the conversation were never made public, but there was speculation this issue was raised.

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