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Qatar Appellate Court Commutes Death Sentence Of 8 Navy Veterans: MEA

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NEW DELHI, Dec 27: In a huge relief to eight Indian Navy veterans on death row, an appellate court in Qatar has commuted their sentence.

“We have noted the verdict today of the Court of Appeal of Qatar in the Dahra Global case, in which the sentences have been reduced,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

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The ministry didn’t specify what the “reduced” punishment was and said a detailed judgment was awaited.

“Due to the confidential and sensitive nature of proceedings of this case, it would not be appropriate to make any further comment at this juncture,” the ministry said and added that it was in close touch with the legal team as well as the family members to decide on the next steps.

The appellate court verdict is also seen as a big diplomatic win for India as it comes weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit in Dubai.

After the meeting on December 1, Modi said they discussed the well-being of the Indian community in Qatar.

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The Indian nationals, who were working with Doha-based Al Dahra Global Technologies, were taken into custody in August 2022 in an alleged espionage case. While the charges against them were not made public by Qatari authorities, they were sentenced to death by Qatar’s Court of First Instance in October this year.

The private firm provided training and other services to Qatar’s armed forces and security agencies.

India had moved the Court of Appeal in Qatar against the death sentence last month.

“Our Ambassador to Qatar and other officials were present in the Court of Appeal today, along with the family members. We have stood by them since the beginning of the matter and we will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance. We will also continue to take up the matter with the Qatari authorities,” the ministry statement said.

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The court verdict was welcomed by political parties, former diplomats and security experts, among others.

“The Indian National Congress shares its immediate relief along with the entire nation that the Court of Appeals in Qatar has decided not to go ahead with the death penalty… While fuller details are awaited we express the hope that even the jail sentence that has replaced the death penalty will be set aside and the officers will be set free,” Congress’ Jairam Ramesh said on X.

BJP general secretary Tarun Chugh said the relief for the former Navy personnel was a “victory of the diplomatic efforts” under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi.

“This news has made it clear that the entire world recognises the strength of India’s foreign policy under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi,” Chugh said.

Former diplomat Anil Trigunayat also welcomed the verdict and hoped that the veterans would be exonerated of the charges.

“It is good that the court has reduced their sentences. I sincerely hope that they will not only be exonerated but also be returned home at the earliest,” Trigunayat said.

Former Navy spokesperson D K Sharma, said,”This great news, but this is the first step, at least the capital punishment has been reduced. The final aim is to bring them home. That is what we are hoping and praying for.”

“Every provision will be made use of. Our relations with that country are such that we can see which provision can be invoked and how our people can be brought back,” Sharma said in response to a question on an agreement on sentenced persons between India and Qatar.

Sharma said he was confident that the government and every authority involved in the matter would take legal recourse to get the veterans back home.

“It is too premature to talk about straight from capital punishment to release. It is probably a sequential thing that may happen and probably take more time,” Sharma said.

In 2015, India and Qatar signed an agreement that allows persons sentenced to jail terms to complete their punishment in their own country.

According to the agreement, a sentenced person may be transferred if the death penalty has not been imposed on the sentenced person; the judgment is final; no criminal proceedings are pending against the sentenced person in the transferring state in which his presence is required.

The agreement also applies to persons facing life imprisonment.

Among the eight veterans, captain Navtej Gill was awarded the President’s Gold Medal for excellence when he graduated from the Naval Academy and later served as an instructor at the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington in Tamil Nadu.

The others are captain Saurabh Vasisht, commanders Purnendu Tiwari, Amit Nagpal, SK Gupta, BK Verma, Sugunakar Pakala, and Sailor Ragesh. (PTI)

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