India’s foreign minister said on Monday that the country would “make every effort” to secure the release of eight former naval officers sentenced to death by a court in Qatar over alleged pro-Israel espionage.
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said he had met the families of the Indian prisoners and told them that the government “attaches utmost importance” to their case.
Indian media say the eight — among them former high-ranking and decorated officers, including captains who once commanded warships — were arrested in Doha in August 2022.
In a social media post, Jaishankar said he fully shares “the concerns and pain of the families” and that “the government will continue to make every effort to secure their release.”
Qatar has not commented on the case and the charges have not been made public.
Indian Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar told reporters on Monday that “every effort is being made” by the government to “get relief for our personnel”. The sentences were only revealed last week when India’s foreign ministry said it was “shocked” by the case.
The eight men were employees of Al Dahra, a Gulf-based company that offers “full support solutions” in the aerospace, security and defense sectors, according to its website.
The Hindu newspaper said the men were spying for a “third country”, while the Times of India said “various reports claimed they were accused of spying for Israel”.
The Israeli government has not commented on the case.
Reading: Eight former Indian Navy officers sentenced to death in Qatar for espionage
Meetu Bhargava, the sister of one of the men, denied the allegations.
“My brother is 63 years old… Why would he spy for Israel? Why would he do something like that at his age?” Bhargava was quoted as saying by the Indian Express newspaper.
He said he would seek the “personal intervention” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Last week, India’s foreign ministry said it would take up the verdict with Qatari authorities and continue to “extend all consular and legal assistance” to the detainees.
Qatar rarely carries out executions and the Gulf state has previously said the death penalty is equivalent to life in prison.
According to Amnesty International, the country executed a convicted Nepali migrant worker in 2020, after a 20-year hiatus.
New Delhi shares historically friendly ties with Doha, a key natural gas supplier to India. More than two-thirds of Qatar’s population of 2.8 million are migrant workers, and many of them are Indian citizens.
Qatar, which hosts a political office for Hamas and has provided financial aid to Gaza, has been linked to efforts to broker a prisoner exchange between the Palestinian militant group and Israel.
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