On Monday, the Qatar court released all eight former Indian Navy personnel in its custody, seven of whom had already returned to India, as stated by the Ministry of External Affairs.
“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”, the MEA statement said.
Early Monday morning, seven sailors returned to India, but Commander Purnendu Tiwari, whose death sentence was commuted to a 25-year life term, is yet to return. It is anticipated that he will also be back in India soon.
Following diplomatic discussions between Qatar and India, the capital punishment initially imposed on the jailed Indian Navy veterans was commuted to an extended prison term. Additionally, the prison term was further reduced after family members of the detained individuals reached out to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The MEA, in response, pledged to use all available diplomatic channels and legal support to facilitate their repatriation.
Speaking to news agency ANI, one of the men who was released said, “We are happy that we have returned to India safe and sound. We would like to thank Prime Minister Modi as his personal intervention made this possible, and the Emir of Qatar for allowing this to happen.”
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 were arrested in August 2022 and had been in jail since.
In December last year, the appellate court in Qatar commuted the death sentence to the eight former Indian Navy personnel.
In August 2022, Indian nationals employed by Dahra Global in Doha were detained, and Qatari authorities did not publicly disclose the charges against them. A report from the Financial Times suggested that they were accused of espionage for Israel.
In early December, for the first time since eight former Indian Navy personnel were handed death sentences in October, the Indian ambassador in Doha had met them in prison.
Consular access to the Indian envoy and the subsequent commutation of the sentence was facilitated following a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on December 1, during the COP28 summit in Dubai. Their discussions encompassed bilateral partnerships and the "well-being of the Indian community" residing in Qatar, which was interpreted as addressing the situation of the eight former Indian Navy personnel facing the death penalty.
Days after the verdict in October last year, which India had called “deeply shocking”, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had met their family members and assured them that the government attached “the highest importance” to the case. In addition to government efforts, the families of the eight had also submitted a mercy plea to the Emir of Qatar.
Image source: Hindustan Times