Family members of some of the eight Indian Navy veterans who are currently in detention and under trial in Qatar have filed a mercy petition with the country’s Emir seeking their pardon
That the petition was prompted by the veterans’ age – most are over 60 – and the lack of clarity on what charges have been filed against them and how long the trial will take to complete.
Charges were filed against the veterans on March 25 this year. They were first picked up by Qatari officials in August 2022 and spent at least the next eight months in solitary confinement.
Bail pleas they made to the Qatari government have been rejected at least eight times in a row since September last year.
The veterans 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.
They were working for an Oman-based company named Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services in Doha, Qatar’s capital city. According to previous news reports, they were involved in training Qatari Navy personnel as well as building Italian technology-based stealth submarines.
Charges were also framed against two Qatari nationals, one of whom is Khamis al-Ajmi, the CEO of Dahra Global. al-Ajmi was kept in solitary confinement for a period of two months starting in October 2022 until he was granted bail.
Dahra closed its Doha operations on May 31, 2023.
Family members of the veterans have been allowed jail visits every once a week, or phone calls if they’re not in Qatar. A relative of one of the veterans told that “[every] time we spoke to our kin in Doha over the phone, he maintains that they have not done anything unlawful.”
The Emir of Qatar, the country’s monarch and head of state, issues pardons on Ramadan and National Day. No information on these is released prior to the actual pardoning, but Qatari consulates sometimes share information when pardons involve foreign nationals.
While Ramadan has already passed this year, Qatar’s National Day is on December 18.
The veterans’ next court hearing is on Wednesday, July 19.
“The case is in what is called ‘The Court of First Instance’. Four hearings have taken place. Our embassy is closely following it … We are ensuring that our nationals are receiving the required legal assistance. The family members … are being updated with the proceedings of the case on a regular basis,” said external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.