Eight Indian navy veterans imprisoned in Qatar on alleged espionage charges have been released, the government announced early this morning. Seven of them have already returned to India after an 18-month stay in prison in the Middle Eastern country.
“The Government of India welcomes the release of eight Indian nationals working for the Dahra Global company and detained in Qatar. Seven of them have returned to India. We appreciate the decision of the Emir of the State of Qatar to allow the release and return of these nationals,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The veterans were not informed in advance of their release and were taken away by embassy officials soon after their release, sources told NDTV. They boarded an IndiGo flight yesterday and returned after 2 am, they added.
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 have been in jail since .
Read | What the Navy Veterans Released by Qatar Said After Landing in India
They were employed by a private company, Dahra Global, and were in Qatar to assist in the introduction of Italian U212 stealth submarines into the Emir’s Qatari naval force as part of their personal duties.
A Qatari court sentenced them to death on October 26, 2023. India said it was “deeply shocked” by the verdict and that it was exploring all legal options.
The death sentence was commuted in December, weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai.
The Navy veterans, now back in the country, thanked Prime Minister Modi and the government for securing their release.
Read | 8 Jailed Indian Navy Veterans Released by Qatar: Case Timeline
“We are very happy to be back in India, safe and sound. We would certainly like to thank Prime Minister Modi as this was only possible because of his personal intervention,” one of them said.
“We have waited almost 18 months to be back in India. We are extremely grateful to the Prime Minister. This would not have been possible without his personal intervention and his equation with Qatar. We are grateful to the Indian government from the bottom of the world. our hearts for all the efforts that were made and this day would not have been possible without these efforts,” said another.