There is no clarity on how long the ‘trial’ will go on , which has left the illegally detained Indians’ kin under severe stress.
The Doha-based Dahra Global, which was shut down on paper on 31 May, had got its hands full till 2029 end with multiple high-value contracts to work on. It was being wooed by defence companies from across the world who wanted to be associated with it due to work it was doing for the Qatar defence ministry and in the Gulf countries.
Sources in the know told The Sunday Guardian that it was paying extremely well its employees, a large chunk of whom were Indian nationals. Many of these Indian employees had retired from the Indian Navy and were also getting a handsome amount as post-retirement benefits. Dahra Global, a company that specialised in the field of training defence personnel, was shut down by its promoters after it was caught in a controversy following the arrest of eight Indian nationals in August last year by the Qatar government on 30 August last year.
Officially, the government of Qatar has not released the reasons for arresting them. This has led to speculative reports in media and social media that they were arrested for trying to gather information about a so-called “secret” midget submarine project.
However, with the company doing so well, it is hard to believe that the eight Indians were going beyond their responsibility for the sake of monetary benefits. “Everyone wanted to be associated with us, both domestically and globally. We were the crown jewel of Dahra Holdings and an entity that was courted by the Qatar government officials. The company too was taking care of us which is why some of us brought our family members here, as we were certain that we can serve here for at least 10 years. We had so many contracts in our hand and we had no time to cater to any new contract till 2029 because of which the company had to turn down new offers. In fact, we were expecting another huge hike in the coming months as we were about to get a new contract. I cannot but believe that whatever Dahra Global faced or what the eight Indians are facing in detention is because of a corporate rivalry,” a former employee who is back in India told The Sunday Guardian.
Now the majority of these contracts have been terminated from the end of the vendor. According to another employee, maybe these eight Indian nationals did or say something unintentionally without perhaps realizing the repercussions it can lead to. “I know them. They all are men of integrity and have a long track record to prove that. They are financially well placed and have no dearth of money. So, it will be wrong to assume that they did something, which they are being accused of by a section of the media, for money. Maybe they said something during an informal discussion that was reported to the State Security Bureau-SSB (the intelligence agency of Qatar) which was then used to attack Dahra Global in its present form. Now, it is the French who are handling whatever remaining work of Dahra Global remains,” he said.
Qatar rulers and the country’s various arms are extremely sensitive to things which they believe are “insulting” or not confined to sticking to what the employee or the expatriate has been recruited for. Dahra Global was a part of Dahra, the Oman-based company which provides services in the field of Aerospace, Security, Defence, Information Technology and Communications sectors. Dahra Global has now been replaced with “Advanced Services and Maintenance (ASM)”.
Most of the employees of Dahra Global are now looking for new opportunities while a few non-Indians have been placed in ASM. Family members of a couple of Indian nationals who are in detention in Doha have been asked to come to Doha to receive the full and final settlement on behalf of those in detention.
As per sources, in the last hearing on 18 May, the courtroom was cleared of all people, except the prosecution and defense lawyers and two witnesses, who were a part of the SSB that is investigating the case. The next date of hearing is 21 June now.
There is no clarity as to how long this “trial” will go on and this has left the family members of these eight Indians under severe stress. Sources said that this whole process is likely to go on for months given the fact that a single hearing is taking place after a gap of 30 days. “Unless the Qatari rulers take a sympathetic view to this whole murky development where nothing is clear and people have likely become victims of a corporate war, the eight Indians are likely to stay in Doha for some time. How considerate the Qatar government will be of our old ties and take a less rigid stand on this matter, that is something time will tell,” a source following the matter said.
The Sunday Guardian reached out to multiple stakeholders in this development including Qatar interior minister Khalifa bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and the Qatar Embassy in Delhi seeking an update in the case. The Sunday Guardian had sought a response to the following questions. 1) What are the charges under which these eight Indians have been arrested? Why has it not been made public till now? 2) Their family members have filed a mercy petition with the Emir of Qatar seeking the release of these eight individuals who are ill and aged. Has the Emir responded to this petition? 3) By when can we expect the trial in this case to end and will they be repatriated to India?
But no response was received till the time of filing of this report.
Similarly, Younis Al-Balushi-Chief Strategy Officer of Advanced Services & Maintenance (ASM) too did not share a response to The Sunday Guardian’s queries. Balushi has been with the Royal Air Force of Oman, worked as a military attaché at Egypt for the Oman government before joining Dahra. He was shifted from Oman to Qatar in January this year to integrate Dahra Global into ASM.