Qatar has released eight veterans of the Indian Navy who were sentenced to death on espionage charges. Seven of the eight former Indian Navy personnel have now returned to India. The capital punishment meted out to the Indian Navy veterans was commuted to an extended prison term earlier following diplomatic intervention by New Delhi.
The releasing of the Indian Navy veterans and freeing them of espionage charges marks a significant diplomatic breakthrough between India and Qatar.
Amid desperate pleas by the anxious kin of the Navy veterans to secure their release and safe passage back to their homeland, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had assured that it would mobilize all diplomatic channels and arrange legal assistance to bring them back.
Of the eight former Navy officers, seven have already returned to India, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) informed through an official statement on Monday.
The Union government released an official statement welcoming the decision to set the veteran officers free, saying, “The Government of India welcomes the release of eight Indian nationals working for the Dahra Global company who were detained in Qatar. Seven out of the eight of them have returned to India. We appreciate the decision by the Amir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals.”
Background of this issue
The eight Indian nationals were imprisoned in Qatar since October 2022 and were accused of allegedly spying on a submarine programme. The Navy veterans were on October 26 given death sentences by Qatar’s Court of First Instance. The sentence had later been reduced to jail terms.
The Indian nationals, who worked with private company Al Dahra, were arrested in August last year reportedly in an alleged case of espionage.
All of the former Navy officers had “unblemished stints” of upto 20 years in the Indian Navy and had held important positions including that of instructors in the force.
In May Al-Dhara Global closed its operations in Doha and all those working there (primarily Indians) have since returned home.
Veterans lauded the efforts of Modi Govt
The released Indian Navy veteran said, “We waited almost for 18 months to be back in India. We are extremely grateful to the PM. It wouldn’t have been possible without his personal intervention and his equation with Qatar. We are grateful to the Government of India from the bottom of our hearts for every effort that has been made and this day won’t have been possible without those efforts.”
Family Members of Naval Officers are surprised
Family members of the eight former Indian Navy officers, arrested in connection with an alleged espionage case in 2022, were informed of their release by the Indian government late on Sunday after they had been released and boarded their flights back home.
A family member of one of the eight ex-Navy men said, “Our veterans are back. We are immensely grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his personal intervention, and also to the Emir of Qatar for agreeing to their release. We were told about their release and journey back home once they had boarded their flights late last night”.
The family of another sailor, Ragesh G Kumar, told that while they were hopeful the men would be released “one day”, the development caught them off guard.
Kumar had been sentenced to a jail term of three years.
His father-in-law K Rajasekharan Nair told: “But for the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their release would not have happened so fast. We hoped that one day, they all would come out, but the timing of the release was totally unexpected. We join the entire country in saluting the Prime Minister, who took up our concern with the highest authority in Qatar.”