‘Spying for Israel’: Qatar releases 8 Indian Navy officers; 7 back in India

Agencies
February 12, 2024

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New Delhi: Qatar has released the eight former Indian Navy officers who were imprisoned in the West Asian nation, purportedly for spying for Israel.

Quiet but intense diplomatic negotiations between New Delhi and Doha bore fruit when the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim ibn Hamad Al Thani, decided to release the eight citizens of India.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi made public the release of the eight early on Monday. Seven of the eight have already returned to India from Qatar, according to a press release issued by the MEA.

“The Government of India welcomes the release of eight Indian nationals working for the Dahra Global company who were detained in Qatar,” the MEA stated.

It has not shared the details of the circumstances in which they were released but thanked the ruler of the West Asian nation. “We appreciate the decision by the Emir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and homecoming of these nationals.”

The Emir of Qatar generally commutes sentences awarded to offenders ahead of the National Day of the country on December 18 as well as on the occasion of Ramadan, which would be celebrated around March 11 this year. It is not clear if he made an exception in the case of the eight former Indian Navy officers on New Delhi’s request.

The former Indian Navy officers had been on death row since October 26 when a lower court in the West Asian nation had awarded them capital punishment for allegedly spying for Israel.

The Court of Appeals in Qatar on December 28 spared the lives of the eight and awarded them prison sentences of varying durations. After the verdict of the Court of Appeals, their lawyers had time till February 26 to move the Court of Cassation, the highest court of the West Asian nation, for further reduction of the prison term or reversal of the conviction and acquittal. They also had the option of appealing for a pardon from the Emir of Qatar.

The former Indian Navy officers, 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, had been arrested from Doha by the Qatari intelligence service on August 30, 2022.

They had all been employees of the Dahra Global company, which had been offering training and several other services to the security agencies as well as the defence forces of Qatar.

The company had over 70 Indians, mostly former Indian Navy officials, on its staff. It had suspended its operations in Qatar last May, several months after its officials had been put in jail.

Though neither Doha nor New Delhi has ever officially made public the charges against the eight Indian Navy personnel, sources said that the Government of Qatar had accused them of espionage, particularly of passing on intelligence to Israel about a project to build advanced submarines for the Qatari Emiri Navy.

The Court of First Instance of Qatar had pronounced the verdict on October 26, awarding the death sentence to all the eight incarcerated citizens of India.

New Delhi had been in touch with Doha through diplomatic channels over the past several months to secure the release of the incarcerated Indians. The Embassy of India in Doha has also been providing consular and legal assistance to them.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani had met in Dubai on the sideline of the COP 28 (UN climate conference) on December 2.

“We had a good conversation on the potential of bilateral partnership and the well-being of the Indian community in Qatar,” Modi had posted after his meeting with Al-Thani. He however had not made it clear if he had raised the issue of the eight former Indian Navy officers on death row in Qatar during his meeting with the Emir of the West Asian nation.

The Government of Qatar provided the Embassy of India in Doha consular access to the imprisoned Indians several times. The last consular access was granted on January 14 when New Delhi’s envoy to Doha, H E Vipul, and the other officials of the embassy met them in a jail in Qatar.
 

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News Network
February 26,2024

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Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has announced the resignation of his government due to the Israeli regime’s relentless ground and air strikes against Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, and escalating violence in the occupied West Bank.

“This decision comes in light of the political, security, and economic developments related to the aggression against Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, and the unprecedented escalation in the West Bank, including in the city of al-Quds,” Shtayyeh, who submitted his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, said at a weekly cabinet session in the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday.

He added that the decision to resign was made because of what Palestinians, their cause and their political system are experiencing amid ferocious and unprecedented Israeli aggression, genocide, attempts at forced displacement and starvation in Gaza, besides intensified settler terrorism, repeated incursions into West Bank towns and villages.

He also referred to unprecedented financial strangulation, attempts to liquidate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees (UNRWA), repudiation of all signed agreements, gradual annexation of Palestinian lands, and bids to turn the Palestinian Authority into an administrative apparatus with no political weight.

Shtayyeh stressed that Palestinians will remain on the path of confronting the occupying Israeli regime, asserting that the Palestinian Authority will continue to struggle to establish a sovereign independent state on Palestinian lands.

Shtayyeh, who was appointed as prime minister in 2019, said in October that the current US administration doesn’t have the political will to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “They’re managing it,” he said.

The Israeli Knesset voted on Wednesday to support prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rejection of an independent Palestinian state. Earlier, the Israeli cabinet had approved a declaration, rejecting any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians hope to establish an independent state of their own in the Gaza Strip and West Bank with East al-Quds as its capital.

Israel occupied East al-Quds during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming all of al-Quds as its “eternal and undivided” capital in a move never recognized by the international community.

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News Network
February 26,2024

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The puja will continue in the southern cellar of the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, the Allahabad High Court said on Monday, February 26 while dismissing an appeal that had challenged the district court's order to this effect.

Justice Rohit Ranjan Agarwal dismissed the mosque management committee's appeal that had challenged the Varanasi district court's order allowing "puja" to be performed in the "Vyas Tehkhana" or southern cellar of the mosque.

The high court dismissed two appeals filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Mosque Committee challenging the district judge's January 17 order that appointed the district magistrate as the receiver of the "Vyas Tehkhana" and January 31 order by which he allowed "puja" to be performed there.

The high court said worship in the "Vyas Tehkhana" will continue.

Dismissing the appeals, Justice Agarwal said, "After going through the entire records of the case and considering the arguments of the parties concerned, the court did not find any ground to interfere in the judgment passed by the district judge on January 17, appointing the Varanasi district magistrate as the receiver of the property, as well as the order dated January 31 by which the district court permitted puja in the tehkhana."

The high court judge had reserved his verdict in the matter on February 15 after hearing the counsel for the parties.

The Anjuman Intezamia Mosque Committee manages the affairs of the Gyanvapi mosque. It moved the high court on February 2, hours after the Supreme Court refused to hear its plea against the district court order and asked it to approach the high court.

The district court ruled on January 31 that a Hindu priest can perform prayers before the idols in the southern cellar of the mosque.

The prayers are now being conducted by a "pujari" nominated by the Kashi Vishwanath temple trust and the petitioner, who has claimed that his grandfather offered puja in the cellar till December 1993.

The district court had directed the local administration to make arrangements within seven days for prayers in the cellar. This would have involved "proper arrangements" with metal barricades at the complex.

A Sangh Parivar-backed survey conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on the court's order had claimed that the mosque was constructed during Mughal emperor Aurangzeb's rule over the remains of a Hindu temple.

The January 31 order was delivered on the plea of Shailendra Kumar Pathak, who had claimed that his maternal grandfather, priest Somnath Vyas, offered prayers in the cellar till December 1993.

He had said the "puja" was stopped during the tenure of then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav after the Babri masjid in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992.

During the hearing, the Muslim side to the dispute had contested the petitioner's version. It had said no idols existed in the cellar and hence, there was no question of prayers being offered there till 1993.

The Muslim side had also countered the petitioner's claim that the basement was under his grandfather's control.

The petitioner had claimed that his family had the control of the cellar even during the British rule.

In an earlier order on January 17, the Varanasi court had directed the district magistrate to take charge of the cellar, but not given any directions then on the right to offer prayers there.

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News Network
February 22,2024

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Condemnations have poured in from world countries after the United States once again vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Israel’s months-long genocidal war on the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Algeria-drafted resolution called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and the "unconditional" release of prisoners, with representatives of 13 countries at the 15-member Security Council voting in favour of the resolution and Britain abstaining.

Israel has killed more than 29,000 people, mostly women and children, and injured some 70,000 others in Gaza since the regime launched its US-backed onslaught on October 7, 2023.

The veto, which marks the third time Washington has opposed such a resolution, drew criticism from many countries including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and even close US allies, France and Slovenia.

'More dangerous situation'

China warned on Wednesday that Washington’s decision to veto the UNSC resolution pushed the war in Gaza into an "even more dangerous" situation.

"China voted in favor of the draft resolution," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular briefing in Beijing. "The United States has once again single-handedly vetoed it, pushing the situation in Gaza into an even more dangerous situation, in which all parties concerned... have expressed their strong disappointment and dissatisfaction.”

Expressing serious concerns about the situation in Gaza, the Chinese official described as a “moral obligation” the halt to the Israeli aggression on the besieged Palestinian territory.

"The humanitarian situation in Gaza is becoming extremely serious, and regional peace and stability have been severely impacted," Mao said, adding, "The Security Council must take action as quickly as possible to bring a halt to hostilities. This is a moral obligation that cannot be put off.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson stressed that, "We will continue to work with all parties in the international community to push the Security Council to take further responsible and meaningful actions, and make unremitting efforts to quell the war in Gaza at an early date.”

'Another black page'

Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzia said the US veto marked “another black page in the history of the Security Council.”

Nebenzia said the US was trying to play for time so that Israel could complete its “inhumane plans” for Gaza, namely to squeeze the Palestinians out of the territory and completely “cleanse” the enclave.

The Russian envoy added that no matter how bitter the “aftertaste” of the vote may be, “we are not in the mood to give up.”

'A regret'

France’s UN envoy Nicolas de Riviere expressed regret that the resolution “could not be adopted, given the disastrous situation” in Gaza.

De Riviere underlined that France, which voted for the resolution, would continue to work towards all captives being released and for a ceasefire to be “implemented immediately.”

'Profound consequences for West Asia'

Amar Bendjama, Algeria’s UN envoy, said the UNSC “failed once again” and warned the move could have profound consequences for the West Asia region as a whole.

“The international community should respond to the calls for ending the killing of Palestinians by calling for an immediate ceasefire. All those impeding such calls should review their policies and their calculations because wrong decisions today will have a cost on our region and our world tomorrow. And this cost will be violence and instability,” Bendjama said.

“So ask yourselves, examine your conscience. What will your decisions today cause? How will history judge you?”

Qatar’s UN Ambassador Alya Ahmed Saif Al Thani also said she regretted the UNSC’s failure to adopt the Algeria-drafted resolution and pledged to continue facilitating efforts to secure a truce in Gaza.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry expressed “regret” at the veto and stressed the “need now more than ever to reform the Security Council to carry out its responsibilities in maintaining peace and security with credibility and without double standards.”

Meanwhile, Norway’s mission to the UN said it “regrets” that the council was not able to adopt a resolution on an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

“It is imperative to end the horror in Gaza,” it added.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez also blasted the US, saying its veto made Washington complicit in Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.

“The US has just vetoed again the UN Security Council resolution that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the forced displacement of the Palestinian population,” Bermudez said in a social media post.

“They are accomplices of this genocide of Israel against Palestine.”

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