With reporting from Riham Sheble
Three Filipino men living and working in Qatar have been convicted of espionage for passing along military and economic secrets to their home government, according to a source close to their trial.
One man, reported to be a lieutenant in the Philippines state security force working as a budgeting and contracting supervisor at large state-owned Qatari company, received the death penalty late last month, while the other two men – technicians working with the Qatar Air Force – were given life sentences in prison.
The man who spoke to Doha News on condition of anonymity said defense lawyers representing the men were planning to appeal the verdict in a hearing scheduled next week. They maintain that the court never heard evidence proving the convicted men passed along any information or profited from it.
Furthermore, the defense will assert that procedural errors were made in the men’s arrest and interrogation. He also said witnesses have come forward saying the Filipino men were physically tortured in custody.
Qatar has accused a handful of foreign nationals of spying in recent years as it fends off cyber attacks on government networks and key energy companies.
This latest case illustrates the interest foreign firms and governments have in Qatar, which is rapidly building up its military as its economic might grows, and the unique vulnerability of a country so reliant on foreign labor that even potentially sensitive senior positions are held by expats.
While details of the charges only came to light this week in a report first published by Al Raya, the source close to the trial said the Qatar police and state prosecutors began to look into the men’s activities in 2009. The charges reportedly relate to events that transpired in 2009-10.
Following a three-and-half year investigation into the activities of the men, authorities raided their homes, offices and cars before putting them on trial in a case that’s lasted two years.
When reached by Doha News, the lawyer for the men – Mohsen Thiyab Al Suwaidi – said his clients asked him to not publicly discuss the case.
The men are reportedly accused of providing information to intelligence officials in the Philippines about Qatar’s aircrafts, weaponry, maintenance and servicing records, as well as specific details about the names, ranks and phone numbers of staff members.
Additionally, details about a major Qatari company’s investment projects and upcoming contracts are also alleged to have been leaked.
The main defendant, accused of raking in millions of riyals in return for his spying services, is said to have given copies of project tenders to other companies.
He’s also alleged to have provided maps, internal reports and classified information about the Qatari Air Force base to Filipino officials, as well as recruiting the other two defendants, who worked in the engineering department of the first man’s company and were technicians at the air force base.
It’s not clear what role, if any, the Philippines Embassy in Doha played. No one was picking up the phone at the embassy or at the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Manila on Thursday.
However, the Peninsula reported today that embassy officials have been following the case of the three men and a representative has been attending the hearings.
Espionage in Qatar
This isn’t the first time Qatar has accused a foreign national of spying. A Jordanian journalist was reportedly sentenced to death on espionage charges in 2003, while two Egyptians were rumored to have been sentenced to life in prison in 2010 for spying on behalf of a foreign entity.
However, the most widely known case is that of American John W. Downs, who moved to Qatar in 1996 and was arrested in 2005 while an employee of Qatar Petroleum.
Media reports at the time said he attempted to sell sensitive information about a natural gas project in Qatar to a foreign embassy. However, his lawyer argued that his client had been entrapped by authorities who lured him into commit a crime.
Modern espionage frequently involves cyberattacks on a company or government computer server, such as recent accusations by American authorities that Chinese military officials hacked into several major US companies to steal information.
In Qatar, reported cyber attacks appear to be primarily politically motivated.
In the past, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) has taken credit for:
- Hijacking Qatar’s .QA domain name and shutting down numerous high-profile websites;
- Taking control of Qatar Foundation’s Twitter and Facebook accounts; and
- Taking control of the Twitter accounts of FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter, and publishing messages asserting the interntational football organization accepted bribes for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Additionally, the corporate computer systems and website of RasGas, one of the world’s largest liquefied natural gas suppliers, were taken offline by a virus attack in August 2012.
While the SEA cited Qatar’s support of rebels inside Syria as justification for its attack, this country’s growing military and economic assets are also of interest to foreign firms and governments.
In response to growing attacks, Qatar is mulling a new draft cybercrime law, in which local companies operating in “vital sectors” would be required to create a framework to manage information inside their businesses, as well as allocating a budget to pay for the new initiatives.
These sectors may include power grids, oil and gas production, financial transactions, healthcare and government operations.
In other news… the defendants responsible for deaths at Villagio are enjoying a vacation in Europe.
I agree, but what concerns me about the story is the allegations of torture. Any information obtained under duress should not be considered credible. If these allegations against the Philipino men are true, then I think it’s an embarrassment for the Phillipines.
this is illogical..this kind of information are useless to Philippines..why would the Philippines send a spy? will the Philippines invade Qatar? it is a peace loving country..if America, Russia, China and other powerful countries will spy on Qatar then that is logical enough..this allegations are baseless and plain stupid..they were frame up and tortured..better investigate the torturing of this innocent men!
“the court never heard evidence proving the convicted men passed along any information or profited from it.”
– LACK OF EVIDENCE!!!!
“Furthermore, the defense will assert that procedural errors were made in the men’s arrest and interrogation. He also said witnesses have come forward saying the Filipino men were physically tortured in custody.”
shame on you Qatar! shame on your justice system!
I agree, what motive would the Philippines have to spy on Qatar? I also doubt that the Philippines’ military patron, the U.S., would have a motive, either, since they and their allies probably supply and service the military hardware and software, so wouldn’t seem to have a need to steal secrets about it. Others have rationally speculated that (if the allegations are true), it’s actually another country behind it, who may have recruited the hapless Filipinos for the job, but would the Philippines government really want to serve as a conduit? Do they really have the spying capability?
Of course we have no idea about some of the threats that face Qatar and what clandestine maneuvers its adversaries employ.
Still, one has to question the transparency (even in an espionage case) and rule of law in Qatar. This story should give pause to every expatriate working here in even a remotely sensitive area. I would not put it past the government to scapegoat mid-level expat functionaries for an organization’s mistakes. It’s also troubling, again if the facts in this story are true, that economic espionage is included in the charges.
Where did you get all of this knowledge from?
….Qatar is a small place….and Qataris know each other
Seems like a spy….
The article on AlRaya is quite comprehensive and detailed. It mentions
the Philippines as it is the country through which all happened, but it
does not blame the Philippines for the spy operation. The spies are all
Filipinos who cooperated and provided sensitive information to a former
intelligence/military official in the Philippines, who then most
probably sold it to companies interested in knowing about Qatar’s future plans
in the domains of military, oil and infrastructure. However, and as mentioned by AlRaya, the whole
thing has been orchestrated by a foreign entity. Unfortunately, AlRaya
did not name the entity or allude to its nature (country, corporation,
I have little sympathy for them as I have no sympathy for the American that tried to sell state secrets. I guess the temptation and greed was too much for them and they sold out.
One consequence now is getting Filipino work visas has become very difficult, a typical way in the Gulf to punish a whole community for the crimes of a few.
God Bless Qatar, God bless their PEOPLE, the world knows how they treat Asian Domestic workers.
I am surprised that this story did not make the headlines in the international media. It seems like Qatar wants to keep it hidden in order to avoid naming the foreign country that orchestrated the whole thing (and which is clearly not the Philippines).
How is Qatar keeping it hidden when it’s on the newspapers? It’s up to the international media to write about it or not. I don’t see how Qatar “wants to keep it hidden”.
Qatar published it in one newspaper, in Arabic. The PDF version of the newspaper is not available in the online archive, unlike all the other papers. The story is too important to be completely hidden, but it is also not a story Qatar wants to discuss openly in AlJazeera, the Guardian and the likes.
My personal opinion is that Qatar wants to send a simple message to the “foreign entity”: we are here and we know how to protect ourselves, but we will not make a fuss of it. Now you know what happens when you do it again.
This is obviously my personal opinion. It might be wrong or right 🙂
I love this. Let something believe that there is still something like a ‘secret’ with all western intelligence services being able to look over your shoulder.
Qatar knows this country who is the recipient of the stolen secrets…Nationals(not Filipinos) of this country should be careful…
This is ridiculous… if this issue has been going on for around 3
years, why did it just get published about? Let’s be honest, What do the
Philipines even have against Doha that an actual “spy” would come here?
If he worked for such a big “state-owned Qatari company” why did it
take them so long to realize he was a so-called spy? and this talk of
physical torture… that’s just unacceptable. It seems to me that the
Doha needs to stop believing every fabricated story that receives
attention as it is, but look at the bigger picture and what it’s really
trying to highlight – Qatar’s mindless, unrealistic and erratic
accusations on foreign nationals of spying to protect it’s “image.” I’m
surprised this article didn’t advertise the 2022 World Cup at the end
because that seems to be the only topic of interest nowadays.
I don’t know that the Philippines can and will do espionage? However did you ever think that ohhh maybe Philippines is just looking what is the best possible Plane for Philippine Air force or what the Philippines should buy for armed forces of the Philippines. But then again, I think the Philippines is not capable of Committing an Espionage.
Maybe soon. 🙂
Lastly only God Can take away someone’s life. God Bless you Qatar
“I think the Philippines is not capable of Committing an Espionage”
Mr. Man, get over yourself. there are cruel people in any country. Don’t be emotional. if they are that good, Philippine as a country should be better than what it is today, corruption is everywhere. And don’t get me wrong my neighbors are Filipinos and they are very good and friendly+ i have Filipinos colleague who are absolutely fantastic at there work.
You are absolutely right.. i agree with you 🙂
i don’t know if they are naive or they just gambled they high salary and nice job just to received a multi-million money for the information they will got… in filipino proverbs it said “Naghangad ng kagitna, isang salop ang nawala”….greed…
GOD Bless Qatar! May GOD Protect Qatar From The Evil..
i was an expat in the middle east for couple of years, and had a lot of good and bad experiences. I’ve seen Indians, Bangladeshis, filipinos are used as pawns mostly likely in cases like this, someone has to take a blame, definitely not the locals. I’ve experience it myself, in the company that I worked wtih, a local arab and a mudir in the company took huge amount of money in the vault in which he has the only access. He reported it himself and give some names that he suspects, police who just came from the desert picked handfull of filipino workers tortured and eventually 3 were sentenced to Jail. Those freed almost became insane due to torture and went to their home country. It’s pitiful and traumatic, no due process at all plus these people’s embassy who are supposedly helping them are imbeciles if not corrupt. Still in my memory until these days and I left the middle east since then. Filipinos are regular wage workers making them as spies are insane and with zero probability, linking them with the Americans is more insane. But filipions are best pick for cases like this since their Government is imbecile and corrupt who don’t really care on their workers thus treat them as milking cows. Unless, it’s been exposed to Media and typicial politican would jump in to gain popularity.
These three Filipino men convicted of espionage in Qatar are our Pastors in Apostolic Church, never and ever will be that they are military officers here in the Philippines. Freedom for our three Pastors…! Through our continuous prayers and declarations, GOD’s miracle will cause for the freedom of our Pastors in this year of Strong Apostolic Character, in this year of our Lord 2015!!! God is awesome! God is good, now! Now, God is good!