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Qatar drops death sentence for Indians who reportedly spied for Israel

New Delhi says sentences for former naval officers 'reduced', without specifying new charges
A partial view of the Qatari capital from the Doha corniche, on 3 February 2022 (Karim Jaafar/AFP)
A partial view of the Qatari capital from the Doha corniche, on 3 February 2022 (Karim Jaafar/AFP)

A Qatari court has dropped the death sentences imposed on eight Indian former naval officers, India's foreign ministry said on Thursday. 

The men were handed the death penalty in October, in charges that neither India nor Qatar specified. 

The Financial Times and Reuters have reported that the men were found guilty of spying for Israel while working on a Qatari submarine programme, citing unnamed sources.

India expressed "deep shock" at the time of the verdict, and said it would explore all legal options. 

The foreign ministry said on Wednesday that the sentences had been "reduced", but did not elaborate on what the new penalty was. 

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"We are in close touch with the legal team as well as the family members to decide on the next steps," the ministry said.

"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," it added.

Qatar rarely carries out the death penalty, having done so only once since 2003, according to the Financial Times. 

The men had been working on a submarine project with private company Al-Dahra for the Qatari authorities when they were detained last year.

Indian politicians and the families of the men confirmed their identities and their background as former naval officers. 

New Delhi's ambassador to Qatar met the men in prison earlier this month, and was present among other Indian officials in the Court of Appeal hearing. 

India is one of Qatar's largest trade partners, importing large volumes of liquefied natural gas from the Gulf state. 

More than 800,000 Indian nationals live and work in Qatar, making up a large proportion of the migrant labour workforce. 

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