Manama: The Indian embassy in Doha is exploring legal options to secure the release of a group of 28 Indian fishermen from Saudi Arabia, who were sentenced to two years in jail for intruding into Qatar’s territorial waters.
The court sentenced the fishermen on October 27 for entering Qatari waters more than two months ago.
A senior Indian embassy official said the embassy had already expressed its concern over the arrests to senior Qatari legal officials, including the attorney general.
Embassy officials met Qatari judicial authorities to explore the possibility of appealing against the court judgment, Qatari daily Gulf Times reported on Thursday.
The embassy official said the ruling was unprecedented and that no Indian fisherman, employed in the region, had ever been given a two-year jail sentence for entering the country’s waters.
There have been shorter sentences of up to six months for similar violations, but the fishermen involved were repatriated even before completing the sentence after their sponsors agreed to pay fines.
Along with the Indian federal government, the provincial government of Tamil Nadu has also been briefed on the developments and a decision on appointing a lawyer to appeal against the court verdict in the higher court is expected shortly, the embassy official said.
According to senior legal expert, Nizar Kochery, once a court issues a sentence for an offence, the chances of settling the issue through diplomatic channels are slim.
“However, the system in Qatar permits pardoning by the country’s authorities, especially during festive occasions like Eid, mostly for minor offences,” he said.
The embassy could still take up the issue with the local authorities and convince them that the offence by the fishermen was unintentional and happened without their knowledge, he added.
” They are neither techno-savvy nor scientifically aware of the water boundaries.”