Qatar releases 8 ex-Indian Navy officers on death row: MEA

Seven out of the eight of them have returned to India.

New Delhi: India on Monday, February 12, welcomed the decision of the Qatar court to release the eight former Indian Army personnel, who were previously sentenced to death, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.

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The Qatar court on Monday released all eight former Indian Navy personnel in its custody, out of which seven have returned to India.

The MEA said in a statement, “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.”

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Earlier, the capital punishment for the jailed Indian Navy veterans was commuted to an extended prison term after diplomatic talks between Qatar and India.

Out of the total eight former Indian Navy officers imprisoned in Qatar, seven have returned to India, said MEA in its statement. Arrangements are being made to bring the last released veteran home.

The men- Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal and Sailor Ragesh.

Watch: How released Navy officers reacted after arriving in Delhi

Relieved to finally walk free, the seven former Navy officers raised chants of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ after arriving at the Delhi airport in the early hours of Monday. They said that they wouldn’t have been freed had it for the sustained diplomatic efforts at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s behest to secure their release.

Speaking to ANI, one of the Navy veterans lauded PM Modi for raising their sentencing with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and said, “I feel relieved and delighted to finally be back home safe and sound. I wish to thank Prime Minister Modi as this wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for his personal intervention to secure our release. I also wish to express my gratitude to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar”

Wearing a relieving smile and a calm demeanour, another released former naval officer told ANI, “Without the intervention of PM Modi, we would not have walked free. We wouldn’t be standing before you today had it not been for his untiring efforts and interventions at the highest levels to get us freedom.”

Another freed navy veteran also came out in praise of the Centre’s intervention in securing their release.

He said, “We, as well as our anxious family members back home, had been waiting for this day for a long time. It all worked out because of PM Modi and his personal intervention in the matter. He took up our case with the highest levels of the Qatari government and eventually secured our release. I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude to him and the Emir of Qatar.”

“We are very happy to be back and it wouldn’t have been possible had the honourable Prime Minister not taken personal interest in the matter. I also thank the Qatar Emir for his personal involvement in the matter,” another former Navy officer told ANI.

“We waited almost 18 months to be back home to our loved ones in India. We are extremely grateful to PM Modi for getting us back. We wouldn’t have seen this day without the joint efforts of PM Modi and the Emir of Qatar. The personal equations that the two leaders share also helped in our release,” another Navy veteran told ANI after landing in Delhi.

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In August 2022, the eight men were arrested by Qatar’s intelligence agency for spying. However, the accusations against them were not made public by the Qatari authorities.

This incident of arrest came to light when Meetu Bhargava, sister of Commander Purenendu Tiwari on October 25, 2022, tweeted and appealed to the government for help.

On October 26, 2023, the eight Indians were given death sentences by Qatar’s Court of First Instance after their bail petitions were denied multiple times.

They worked at Qatar’s Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services. It is a private company that offers training and various other services to the defence and security agencies of Qatar.

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