A Qatari court handed down death sentences Thursday to eight Indian employees of a Qatari company on charges of espionage, reportedly on behalf of Israel.
According to reports in Indian media, the officials were arrested last year on suspicion of spying for the Jewish state on Qatar’s military submarine program.
The sentences came at a sensitive time amid the Israel-Hamas war, as Qatar has been playing a key intermediary role in negotiating the release of several Israeli hostages held in Gaza by the Palestinian terror group, as well as the entrance of some humanitarian aid for Gaza’s civilian population.
The Indian government vowed to explore “all legal options” in response to the death sentences.
According to Indian media reports, the eight men are retired Indian navy officers, some of whom commanded warships during their service, who had worked for the consulting company Al Dahra, advising the Qatari government on the acquisition of submarines.
Al Dahra is a Gulf-based company that offers “complete support solutions” to the aerospace, security and defense sectors, according to its website.
India’s External Affairs Ministry said in a statement it was awaiting the detailed judgment in the case.
“We are in touch with the family members and the legal team, and we are exploring all legal options,” it said. “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.”
The statement did not provide further details.
Qatar’s government declined to immediately comment on the sentences.
Qatari authorities provided New Delhi with consular access to the eight Indian nationals during their trial.
Millions of Indians live and work in the Gulf, a large number of them as semi-skilled or unskilled workers. They constitute an important source of income for India and contribute to the success of Gulf economies.
On Wednesday, a senior Israeli government official voiced rare praise for the Gulf nation that has long hosted Hamas’s top leaders and funded the terror group, commending it for its “crucial” diplomatic efforts.
“I’m pleased to say that Qatar is becoming an essential party and stakeholder in the facilitation of humanitarian solutions. Qatar’s diplomatic efforts are crucial at this time,” National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Due to their close ties, the wealthy Gulf monarchy has acted as a communications channel with Hamas and is playing a key role in negotiations to release some of the at least 220 hostages currently held by terrorists in the Gaza Strip following Hamas’s murderous assault on Israel on October 7, in which some 1,400 were killed, the vast majority of them civilians.
Four of the hostages have been freed.
In past rounds of violence, Qatar also played a role in brokering ceasefires between Israel and Gazan terror groups.