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Philippines denies spying on Qatar

Three Filippinos have been convicted of espionage in return for "big amounts of money" in the Gulf state
More than 1.2 million migrants workers live in Qatar (Richard Messenger - Flickr)

The government of the Philippines has denied that it has been spying on Qatar, after three Filipino workers were convicted of espionage in the country.

Charles Jose, spokesperson for the Philippines foreign department, says the government are “categorically denying that we are engaged in espionage."

The three men, who have already been held in custody for five years and whose identities have been kept secret, were charged with leaking information about weaponry, aircraft, maintenance and servicing records to intelligence officials in the Philippines as well as a former ambassador.

One man has been sentenced to death and the others to life in jail.

The two men jailed for life were employed by the Qatari Air Force as technicians and provided the third man with "secret information" in return for "big amounts of money," according to Qatar’s Al-Raya newspaper.

The defendant who was sentenced to death had spied for a "state security force" in the Philippines, the newspaper added.

He had reportedly passed copies of project tenders to other companies, as well as classified information about a Qatari Air Force base to Filipino officials, the Doha News website said, citing a source close to the case.

Al-Raya identified him as a lieutenant in the Philippines' state security force, which sent him to Qatar, saying he was trained under the supervision of another officer at Manila International Airport.

He provided state security with information he hid, along with secret documents in gifts sent to the officer, he worked for mediators at Manila Airport, the newspaper said.

The second defendant leaked secret information to his Filipino handler and the third travelled with the main convict to the Philippines in 2009 and gave him information on Qatari military aircraft, the numbers of Filipinos employed there and their salaries, Al-Raya said.

Charles Jose promised that the Philippines government would not let down its citizens.

“Our Embassy in Doha has been tireless in its efforts to extend the necessary assistance to the Filipinos who are facing espionage charges in Qatar,” Jose said.

“We will continue to closely monitor this case and extend assistance to the accused Filipinos and their families,” he added.

The defendants are currently being tried by an appeals court in Doha which on Monday set their next hearing for October 27.

There are currently between 150,000 and 200,000 Filipinos in Qatar, making up as much as 10% of the population of the country.

Most work as construction workers, domestic helpers, or in the travel industry.

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