By Krishn Kaushik and Andrew Mills
NEW DELHI/DOHA (Reuters) – Eight Indian former naval officers who were handed the death penalty by a court in Qatar on Thursday were charged with spying for Israel, a source in India and another in Qatar said.
Neither New Delhi nor Doha has officially stated the charges against the eight who were arrested in August 2022.
In India, a government official aware of Doha’s stance said the Qatar authorities had accused them of spying for Israel.
The eight Indians will be able to appeal the death sentence, the source briefed on the case in Qatar told Reuters, as well as also saying they had been charged with spying for Israel.
Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the case.
A spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment about the sources’ comments.
There was no immediate reply from Qatar’s foreign ministry.
There was no immediate response from the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, which oversees Israel’s intelligence services.
The ruling comes as Doha is trying to negotiate with the Palestinian militant group Hamas for the release of over 200 hostages seized during its Oct. 7 rampage in Israel, which is pummelling Gaza with aerial strikes in response.
The case involving the eight Indians, who were working on a submarine project with a private company for the Qatari authorities, could also become a diplomatic headache for New Delhi, which depends heavily on Qatar for its natural gas needs.
The Indian government said on Thursday that it was “deeply shocked” that Qatar’s Court of First Instance had awarded the death penalty to the eight Indians, adding it was “exploring all legal options”.
New Delhi had said that it attaches “high importance to this case” and will “take up the verdict with Qatari authorities”.
The government said it would not comment further due to the “confidential nature of the proceedings”.
Jairam Ramesh, a spokesperson for India’s opposition Congress party urged the Indian government on Thursday to “use its diplomatic and political leverage with the Qatar government” to do utmost to get them released at the earliest.
More than 800,000 Indian citizens live and work in Qatar.
(Reporting by Krishn Kaushik in New Delhi, Andrew Mills in Doha; Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Alison Williams)