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Qatar Court Commutes Death Sentences for 8 Ex-Indian Navy Personnel

Eight former Indian Navy officers had their death sentences mitigated by a Qatar court on Thursday, and instead of receiving death sentences, they were handed jail sentences ranging from three to 25 years, according to persons acquainted with the case.

The eight men’s families filed an appeal after their detention in August 2022 on unreported charges. The Court of Appeal of Qatar ruled at that hearing. Although Indian and Qatari officials have not disclosed the specifics of the accusations made against them, reports have indicated that they were charged with espionage.

In a terse statement, the Ministry of External Affairs claimed that the Court of Appeal in Qatar had “reduced” the penalties handed down to the eight individuals. Captains Saurabh Vasisht and Navtej Gill, Commanders Amit Nagpal, SK Gupta, BK Verma, and Sugunakar Pakala, and sailor Rajesh. But did not offer any information. The statement continued, “The detailed judgment is awaited.”

Qatar Court Commutes Death Sentences for 8 Ex-Indian Navy Personnel

According to the aforementioned sources, the eight men’s death sentences were mitigated and they were each handed jail terms of differing lengths by the Qatari court. “The death penalty is not an option. The sentences range from a few years to many years in prison, one of the participants stated while requesting to remain anonymous. The jail terms, according to a second source, vary from three years to ten, fifteen, and twenty-five years.

Qatar Court Commutes Death Sentences

The death sentence was commuted, allowing India to rely on a 2015 deal with Qatar on the transfer of prisoners. Under the agreement, people of India and Qatar who have been found guilty of crimes and given penalties can complete their prison terms at home.

The agreement, which was signed in March 2015 by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, on his visit to India, does not apply to those who have been given the death penalty.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian side is in close communication with the eight men’s families and the legal team in order to “decide on the next steps.” When the decision was announced at the Court of Appeal on Thursday. Family members of the Indian ambassador to Qatar as well as other authorities were there.

Since the start of the situation, we have supported them, and we will keep offering them legal and consular support. We’ll keep bringing up the issue with the authorities in Qatar as well,” the statement read.

It continued, saying. “It would not be appropriate to make any further comment at this juncture due to the confidential and sensitive nature of proceedings of this case.”

Indian Navy in Qatar

What’s Next for the 8 Ex-Indian Navy Personnel?

According to the sources, the Indian side will collaborate with the legal team to investigate possibilities. Such as filing a new appeal against the men’s prison sentences. The individual mentioned above indeed stated, “This is all part of a process and it will continue.”

Eight men were however jailed for over a year, including decorated commanders commanding frontline vessels in the Indian Navy. They were found guilty on October 26. And condemned to death by Qatar’s Court of First Instance. The external affairs ministry said at the time that it was “deeply shocked” by the judgment. And that it would investigate all available legal avenues to assist the former sailors.

Three sessions were held by the Court of Appeal in Qatar on November 23, November 30, and December 7. On December 3, the Indian ambassador was granted consular access to speak with the eight men. The men’s families had already asked the Qatari emir to grant them a pardon. On December 18, Qatar’s national day, and throughout the Eid celebrations, the emir often grants pardons to inmates.

The eight men worked for a division of Dahra Engineering & Security Services. An Oman-based company that supplied the military forces of Qatar with training and other services. This year in May, the subsidiary was closed.

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