'Our Response Has Been No Response At All': Cong MP Slams Centre on Qatar Crisis

"It is important to get hold of that judgment," asserted Congress MP Manish Tewari in an interview to The Quint.

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"I mean, for Christ's sake, you're dealing with people in their late sixties, maybe even early seventies, people who have serious health issues," Congress MP Manish Tewari told The Quint days after a death sentence was handed down to eight Indian retired navy officers by a court in Qatar.

"Death sentence in the jurisprudence that I have done and studied across geographies happens in the rarest of rare cases," added the MP from the Anandpur Sahib constituency in Punjab.

The Court of First Instance in Qatar on Thursday, 26 October passed the verdict against the eight men who used to work with Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services – more than a year after they were arrested in August 2022 under charges of "espionage".

Tewari has been vocal about this issue on X (formerly Twitter) since the death sentence was pronounced. In a video interview with The Quint, he blamed the Centre, saying the "government of India should have been more vigilant, and should have realised the gravity of the situation.

'Raised the Matter in Parliament...'

"Somewhere in August of 2022, this particular information surfaced in the public space that eight Indian naval personnel were picked up by the country authorities in the middle of the night," said Tewari.

The MP asserted that the Government of India would have got that information much before it came out in the public domain because "Doha is a very small place and obviously the Indian Embassy would have definitely got to know."

In a statement on October, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said it was “deeply shocked” by the verdict and would take up the matter with Qatari authorities. “We are in touch with the family members and the legal team, and we are exploring all legal options,” the statement said.

"Subsequently, I started raising the matter in Parliament in December 2022 and [External Affairs Minister] Dr S Jaishankar wrote a letter back to me, trying to explain what the Government of India was doing to help them. But this kept festering, and I kept repeatedly raising it because the family members by then had come and met me, and they had told me that these people are in solitary confinement," Tewari added.

"And obviously, when you have Indians in difficulty abroad, you do try and do your little bit. So, between August or July of 2022 and October of 2023, you know, close to 15 months have elapsed. And in 15 months, we were not able to get our act together and really help these people. Our eye was not on the ball," he said.

Days after the verdict, on 30 October, Jaishankar met with families of the eight men in Delhi, and both he and Naval Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar promised in separate statements that the government would make “all efforts”, to help release the men.

"[I] fully share the concerns and pain of the families, underlined that Government will continue to make all efforts to secure their release," he added.


'A Diplomatic Intervention Was Necessary'

"I'm not trying to ascribe motives. All I am merely saying is that the government should have been vigilant and realised the gravity of the matter. And given that there is manifest arbitrariness in the judicial systems of these countries... I mean, they are not common law countries... These are very opaque systems because by what has come out in the public space, apparently there have been only three hearings and eight people have been sentenced to death."

"That is why a diplomatic intervention at the highest level at that point in time was essential because now Qatar is going to turn around and say, 'we have a court of law, we have a judicial system'."

He further added, "The judicial system has weighed the evidence. They've come to a conclusion and you can appeal to a higher court. I mean, for Christ's sake, you're dealing with people in their late sixties, maybe even early seventies, people who have serious health issues or have been held in solitary confinement. And even now, nobody knows as to why they have been sentenced to death."

"Whereas the judgment of the court of first instance, that judgment is not available even today. Therefore, more than anything else, it is important to get hold of that judgment."


'Our Response Has Been No Response At All'

"India and Qatar have a robust trade relationship. In fact, that is a level that India clearly has. I don't know why India has not used that lever, in order to try and get our people back to India. Frankly, our response, so far, has been no response at all. Even the prime minister, he has not even condemned the Qatari government," Tewari said.

"The biggest supporter of Israel is the United States of America, which has its largest air base of the Middle East in Qatar. If Qatar had to take out its anger on those supporting Israel, then they should take their anger out on the US," he added.

"Even if they were angry at the stand taken by India at the United Nations by abstaining, or even the initial reaction that may have come out of India after the 7 October attacks by Hamas, you don't sentence eight people to death! Death sentence in the jurisprudence that I have done and studied across geographies happens in the rarest of rare cases," he concluded.

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Topics:  Manish Tewari   Qatar   Congress Party 

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