Qatar has sentenced to death eight Indian former naval officers, reportedly for spying for Israel.
India’s government said that “all legal options were being explored” after expressing “deep shock” at Thursday’s verdict.
The men were found guilty of spying on the Gulf state’s submarine programme for Israel after being arrested in August last year, The Times of Israel and Financial Times reported.
The retired Indian navy officers, some of whom commanded warships during their careers, were working for a consulting company advising Qatar on submarine acquisition, according to reports in India.
The Telegraph has asked Qatar to confirm the reported espionage but the state has made no formal comment.
Doha, which Israel has praised for its mediation efforts, is negotiating to free some 222 people taken hostage by Hamas in the attack on southern Israel that killed 1,400 people.
The terrorist group, which has offices in the Qatari capital, wants Israeli bombing of Gaza to stop to allow in aid, in return for the freeing of more hostages.
On Monday, Hamas freed two Israeli civilian women following the release of two hostages with dual US-Israeli nationality last Friday.
Dr Mohammed Al-Khulaifi, a senior negotiator and Qatar’s minister of state for foreign affairs, told Sky News that all the hostages could be released if there was a pause in fighting.
“Any escalation whatsoever is going to make our job really harder. Any escalation whatsoever. So we’re trying to send those messages to our partners and friends,” he said.
Risk to Doha-New Delhi relations
The death sentences risk disturbing Doha’s relations with New Delhi.
Hundreds of thousands of Indian migrant workers live in Qatar, and India is the gas-rich state’s second largest trading partner.
The Indian broadcaster NDTV named the veterans as Capt Navtej Singh Gill, Capt Birendra Kumar Verma, Capt Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta and Sailor Ragesh Gopakumar.
Qatar rarely carries out the death penalty, with its last two executions in 2020 and 2003.