DOHA: A report carried by a local Arabic newspaper yesterday suggesting that a Qatari criminal court has sentenced a Filipino to death and two other Filipinos to jail for life in an espionage case has evoked sharp reaction from citizens.
All the three Filipinos were working in Qatar. Comments posted by nationals on local social networking sites have called for not giving sensitive posts in Qatar with foreigners.
“There is no safety and security for us, since key (government) positions are with foreigners,” said a commentator on a social networking site.
Another asked how foreigners have access to sensitive information here.
One commentator said he doubted if the Philippines would be spying on Qatar’s security matters and he suspected the involvement of some other countries.
Details of the case which Arabic daily Al Raya carried on its front page suggested the prime convict, who has been sentenced to death, was working with a major state-owned Qatari company since 1993.
Two other Filipinos working as technicians with the Qatar Air Force were awarded life sentence by the court for helping the main convict by providing him sensitive information for money.
The trio has been charged with providing sensitive information about the state to a country and threatening Qatar’s national security.
Defence lawyer for the convicts, Mohsin Thiyab Al Suwaidi, told The Peninsula that the criminal court had been conducting this trial for the past four years.
“In these four years the case was transferred to three panels of judges and the last one passed the verdict on April 30 this year.”
He said he had gone in appeal and the Criminal Court of Appeals was set to hear the case on May 26.
He claimed that the charges against the trio were not proved as investigations haven’t led to any incriminating evidence.
Asked how a local Arabic daily could carry such a sensitive report since it involved national security and name the nationality of the convicts, Al Suwaidi said the criminal court, in its verdict, had not barred the media from covering the case.
“The sessions of the court were open and anybody could attend them. The judges didn’t think that the case was so sensitive,” said the lawyer. “In Qatar, we don’t have special courts to try such cases, so criminal courts conduct such trials, and they are open.”
Sources at the embassy of the Philippines here told The Peninsula the mission has been following the case and a representative has actually been attending hearings.
Details of the case suggest the main convict was a member of the Philippines security and was working here for a long time.
He was providing information about special projects, investments, staff members, minutes of the meetings of top officials and plans of the company he was working for, to his country.
In the said Qatari company he was working as a supervisor for budgets and contracts. Investigations revealed that he passed on the above information as well as information related to the Qatari air force, military base, types of weapons Qatar has, their maintenance and servicing, staff members, including their ranks and phone numbers, to a senior Communications Intelligence official in the Philippines.
The main convict got military and related information about Qatar from two of his accomplices. The duo was working only for money. After they were caught, the police sought permission from the Public Prosecution and conducted searches in their office, homes and even cars.
The main convict was working for the Philippine Intelligence and had the rank of a lieutenant.
He was trained to investigate and record sensitive information and pass on to a key official at Manila Airport. In Qatar, he had access to secrets of his employing company.
The Arabic daily said, giving details of the case that the second convict passed on information hidden with gift items. The third convict visited their home country with the main convict in 2009 at the latter’s expense.
In the Philippines, he (the third convict) was asked about Qatari air force and the number of Filipinos working with it and their salaries.
Investigations showed that the three convicts agreed to commit the crime in 2009 and 2010, the daily said. The Peninsula