After India lodged an appeal with Qatar regarding the death penalty handed down to eight ex-Navy personnel, a Qatari court, on Thursday, 23 November, accepted the appeal document and will now study it to come to a decision in the case, sources close to the men's families told The Quint, requesting anonymity.
The Court of First Instance in Qatar had passed the original judgment to the eight men, who used to work with Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services on 26 October – more than a year after they were arrested in August 2022.
Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had previously confirmed on Thursday, 16 November, that the families, who have been working with the Indian government, "formally submitted an appeal."
Sources close to the case told The Quint under the condition of anonymity that the appeal was accepted a few days after and the court decided to conduct the first hearing on 23 November.
During the hearing on Thursday, 23 November, the court "formally accepted the appeal document, which was prepared by a lawyer representing the families, supported by the Indian government, and will subsequently decide a date for the next appeal hearing."
In line with the hearing today, a source close to several families of the retired servicemen told The Quint, under the condition of anonymity:
"This is what they get for being ex-military. The only reason they remain in prison, and the court did not let them go, is because they are formerly from the Indian military. Is it a crime to be a retired officer of the Indian Armed Forces?”
Commenting on what is expected from the next hearing, the date of which will be updated in this story, sources close to the case told The Quint:
"We are expecting more discussions and talks from the next hearing, which will happen soon, but there is also a small chance that the courts pass a judgment in the next hearing, as the Court of First Instance did back in October."
The accused have been identified as 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.
After the death sentence, families and former colleagues, the former Indian navy officers made an appeal to the Indian prime minister.
Meetu Bhargava, sister of Captain Purnendu Tiwari, told The New Indian Express:
“We couldn’t come to terms with what we heard as my brother, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, who happens to be a decorated naval veteran has done no wrong and is innocent. We plead to our Prime Minister to intervene and bring back our officers."
Former navy test pilot and columnist Commander (Retd) KP Sanjeev Kumar, who knew some of the officers personally, wrote in a blog post, “These are honest, above-board gentlemen who worked with the same zeal and commitment in Indian Navy service as in their selected fields post-retirement."
“I challenge those who know them personally to publicly reveal to me a single act of indiscretion that even remotely points to suspicions of the nature they have been charged with,” he added in his blog titled, “A coursemate’s plea to bring back naval veterans on death row in Qatar now.”
Amit Nagpal’s brother Vikas Nagpal started a signature campaign to seek public support for the release of all the eight veterans.
"The lack of transparency and due process in this case is deeply concerning, as it undermines faith in legal systems globally. This petition aims to bring attention to this grave issue and seeks justice for these individuals who have served their country honorably," the petition read.