Convicted Filipino ‘spies’ in Qatar are pastors

The Filipinos were charged with leaking information about weaponry, aircrafts

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Three Filipinos who were convicted this week in Qatar of espionage are pastors from a “born-again church” whose detention could be related to their religious affiliation, Filipino media reported on Wednesday.

ABS-CBN television station quoted three other pastors of the church's affiliate in the Philippines who were also arrested along with the three detainees in 2010 as saying that the issue is “not only administrative, it's also religious.”

The pastors said the crackdown on the Filipinos began following an administrative change within the government-owned Qatar Petroleum. The change reportedly involved the sacking of a senior Qatari executive. The three Filipinos convicted this week were reportedly close to him.

One pastor said he was himself arrested after visiting one of the Filipino’s house in 2010.

“One of the pastors even broke his hand because he was handcuffed during 10 days of torture,” ABS-CBN reported.

The Philippine government on Monday confirmed that three Filipinos were charged espionage and economic sabotage, with one sentenced to death and two others sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Philippines foreign department spokesman Charles Jose said: "We are categorically denying that we are engaged in espionage."

Jose declined to make public other details of the case, although he referred journalists to reports in the Doha media for further information, AFP reported.

According to Doha News, the Filipinos were charged with leaking information about weaponry, aircrafts, maintenance and servicing records between 2009 and 2010 to intelligence officials in the Philippines.

It said the man who received the death penalty worked at a major state-run Qatari company and spied for a "state security force" in the Philippines, while Qatar Air Force employed the other two as technicians.

The main defendant had reportedly given copies of projects tenders to companies, as well as classified information about Qatar Air Force base to Filipino officials, the Doha News said, citing a source close to the case.

The accounts could not be independently verified.

According to Filipino newspaper Manila Bulletin, the three convicts’ plea for bail has been rejected by the Court of Appeals in Doha and will remain behind bars until the next scheduled hearing in October.