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rewrite this title Former Indian navy men sentenced to death in Qatar on mysterious espionage charges | World News

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Eight former Indian navy men have been sentenced to death in Qatar on espionage charges.

Captains Navtej Singh Gill, Birendra Kumar Verma, and Saurabh Vasisht; commodores Amit Nagpal, Sanjeev Gupta, Purnendu Tiwari, and Sugunakar Pakala; and sailor Ragesh have been held since August last year.

According to reports, they were employed by Al Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services in Doha which provides training and security related services to Qatar‘s armed forces.

The men were said to be working on a secretive submarine project – and the country’s intelligence agency claims to have evidence of a breach.

India‘s foreign ministry has said it is “deeply shocked” by the death sentences and could take further action.

“We are in touch with the family members and the legal team, and we are exploring all legal options,” it said.

“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 authorities.”

Narendra Modi has been urged to intervene

‘Disturbing developments’

The first trial in the case was held in March, but there has been a veil of secrecy surrounding it and the men’s families have not been given any details of the charges.

It is proving to be a major diplomatic challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government, with opposition parties raising the issue.

A spokesperson for India’s Congress party said it felt the “greatest anguish, distress, and shock” regarding the “disturbing developments” and called on the government to secure the men’s release.

The sister of commodore Purnendu Tiwari, a decorated officer who has commanded several warships, has also appealed for them to be brought home “without any further delay”.

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Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani addresses the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 19, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani could theoretically pardon the men

India and Qatar’s close ties

Qatar has used the death penalty in cases of espionage and national security threats before.

In 2002, a Jordanian journalist working with the Qatari Television network was sentenced to death for espionage.

Qatar’s emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the head of state, has the power to pardon or ratify such sentences.

India has enjoyed good relations with Qatar for decades, and Mr Modi has visited and met the emir.

There are around 800,000 Indians working in the country, making them its largest expatriate community.

India also imports 48% of its liquified natural gas from Qatar, and bilateral trade is valued at $15bn a year.

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