Eight former Indian Navy officers, who have been sentenced to death in Qatar, have been accused of spying for Israel. The eight men were working for a private firm that helped the Qatari armed forces and included decorated officers who once commanded Indian warships.
In August 2022, the retired officers were arrested on charges of spying and were accused of espionage and state-sponsored terrorism. According to reports, the eight men were spying for Qatar on a secret naval project.
The convicted men are Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta and Sailor Ragesh Gopakumar. They worked for a private firm, Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, which provided training and other services for Qatar’s armed forces.
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said it was shocked by the verdict and would take up the issue with Qatari authorities.
The men, who were arrested in Doha last year, have been accused of spying on Qatar’s advanced submarines for Israel. These submarines were coated with special materials that enhanced their stealth capabilities, something that would be valuable for any navy in the world.
According to reports, the submarines were being built in collaboration with an Italian shipbuilding firm.
In 2019, Commander Purnendu Tiwari was awarded the Pravasi Bharaitya Samman, the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians. In a post at the time, the Indian Embassy in Doha had said the award was given to Commander Tiwari for enhancing India’s image abroad.
“The award is in recognition of his contribution towards capacity building for the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces, thereby promoting India-Qatar bilateral cooperation. He is the first Indian Armed Forces personnel to be awarded this highest honour meant for NRIs / PIOs,” the embassy had said.
Commander Tiwari was the Managing Director of Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services and had commanded several warships when he was part of the Indian Navy.
‘Exploring All Options’
Bail petitions of the eight men had been rejected several times and the verdict against them was pronounced on Thursday by the Court of First Instance in Qatar.
Reacting to the verdict, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement, “We are deeply shocked by the verdict of death penalty and are awaiting the detailed judgement. We are in touch with the family members and the legal team, and we are exploring all legal options.”
“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,” it added.