Update: India's Ministry of External Affairs on February 12, 2024, stated that the eight former Indian navy personnel had been released from Qatar's custody and seven of them have been brought back to India.
A post has gone viral on social media falsely claiming that Qatar announced the cancellation of the death sentence recently handed out to eight Indian nationals including former navy officials by a Qatari court. BOOM found that the case is still ongoing and Qatar has not released any official statement on cancellation of the death sentence.
A court in Qatar had handed out the death penalty to eight Indians including seven retired naval officers and a sailor on October 26, 2023. The Indian nationals, who worked with private company Al Dahra, were arrested in August last year reportedly in an alleged case of espionage for spying on a submarine programme on behalf of Israel.
On December 1, 2023, Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit being held Dubai had interacted with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
The X (formerly known as Twitter) handle @HarbirSinghSuri posted on November 30, 2023, with a photo of PM Modi claiming, "*BREAKING NEWS**Qatar announces cancellation of death sentence of 8 people : adds that India's friendship is more important." This X handle is followed by PM Modi.
The same claim is being shared widely on Facebook.
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BOOM found that the claim is false and Qatar has not made any official announcement on cancellation of the death sentence given to eight Indians including former navy officials.
We ran a keyword search and did not find any credible news reports on Qatar officially announcing that it had cancelled the death sentence and any official statement stating that, "India's friendship is more important" as being claimed in the viral post.
We found a post on X by Dainik Bhaskar journalist Abhinandan Mishra who is covering the case and had tweeted on December 1, 2023, stating that the hearing in the case was held on November 30, 2023, and for the first time the former Indian navy officials were given the chance to speak and address the court.
BOOM reached out to Mishra who confirmed that the Qatari court had not made any declaration on cancelling the verdict as being claimed in the viral post. "Not true as far as I am aware. The case is still being heard in the court," Mishra told BOOM.
Mishra also stated that the next hearing in the case is on December 7, 2023.
Additionally, we also found a news report by Hindustan Times on December 1, 2023 which quoted Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar stating that the Indian government is making an all-out effort to ensure that the former Indian Navy personnel who have been sentenced to death in Qatar are brought back.
“The ex-naval officers in Qatar are veterans...and we are interested in ensuring their welfare is taken care of. I want to reassure you that the Indian government is putting all-out efforts to ensure that they are brought back,” he said in response to a question on the fate of the veterans the report states.
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BOOM has reached out to Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs via email, the article will be updated upon receiving a response.