8 former Indian Navy personnel jailed in Qatar released

The charges were filed against the eight Indian Navy veterans on March 25, 2023

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  12 Feb 2024 5:05 AM GMT
8 former Indian Navy personnel jailed in Qatar released

Qatar has released eight jailed former Indian Navy personnel nearly three-and-a-half months after they were handed down death sentences in a case of suspected espionage.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said seven of them have returned to India and that India appreciates the decision by the Amir of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of the Indians.

"The Government of India welcomes the release of eight Indian nationals working for the Dahra Global company who were detained in Qatar," the MEA said.

Who are those Indians?

On December 28, 2023, Qatar’s Court of Appeal commuted the death sentences awarded last October and sentenced the eight men, who were working with Doha-based Al Dahra Global Technologies, to prison for varying durations ranging from three years to 25 years.

The Indian nationals, who worked with the private company Al Dahra, were arrested in August 2022 reportedly in an alleged case of espionage. Neither the Qatari authorities nor New Delhi made the charges against the Indian nationals public.

What are the charges filed?

The charges were filed against the eight Indian Navy veterans on March 25, 2023 and they were tried under Qatari law. After the Court of Appeal commuted the death sentence, the Indian nationals were given 60 days to appeal against the order of their jail terms.

Among the eight veterans, Captain Navtej Gill was awarded the President's Gold Medal for excellence when he graduated from the Naval Academy and later served as an instructor at the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington in Tamil Nadu.

Doha-based Al Dahra Global Technologies, a private firm, provided training and other services to Qatar's armed forces and security agencies. The veterans – Captains Navtej Gill and Saurabh Vasisht, Commanders Purnendu Tiwari, Amit Nagpal, SK Gupta, BK Verma and Sugunakar Pakala, and sailor Ragesh – were detained in August 2022 on undeclared charges.

People familiar with the matter had earlier said on condition of anonymity that Purnendu Tiwari was given a 25-year prison term, while Ragesh was given a three-year sentence. Four of the former Navy officers were given 15-year prison terms and two others 10-year prison terms, they said.

An understanding between Indian- Qatar

India was also looking at the possibility of invoking provisions of a bilateral pact on the transfer of sentenced persons. The pact inked between India and Qatar in 2015 provides for citizens of India and Qatar who have been convicted and sentenced for criminal offences to serve their sentences in their home country.

Finally walk free

Relieved to finally walk free, the seven former Indian Navy officers raised chants of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” at the Delhi airport.

One of the Navy veterans thanked Modi for raising their sentencing with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and attributed their release to relentless diplomatic efforts at his behest.

"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," he said.

One of the veterans praised the Indian government's intervention in securing their release. "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.” said the Veteran officer.

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