Qatar has released eight former Indian naval officers previously sentenced to death on charges of spying for Israel and seven of them have already returned back to India.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) thanked Doha on Monday, welcoming the decision as it announced that all the eight senior ex-Navy personnel had been freed. The octet was working in a personal capacity. The details surrounding their arrest, sentencing, and commuting remain unclear.
“We appreciate the decision by the Amir [Emir] of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals,” the ministry said in a statement in New Delhi.
Case Has Been Generating Considerable Interest Since August 2022
The men were reportedly arrested in August 2022, due to accusations that they had passed on sensitive and confidential defence-related information to Israeli intelligence. Neither nation officially confirmed the charges.
A preliminary court sentenced them to death last year, prompting India to express deep shock and file an appeal.
Last December, the MEA confirmed that it had gained consular access to the prisoners. Later the same month, it also confirmed that an appeals court had commuted their death sentence to varying prison terms.
It said on Monday that seven of the men had already returned to India. No details were given about the eighth man, the conditions of the release, or the current status of the case.
The arrest of the eight men last year made headlines in Indian and Arab media and has continued to attract interest in India.
The eight were senior employees of Dahra Global Technologies and Consulting Services. Unconfirmed Indian reports said that the company was advising on the nation on a programme aimed at obtaining high-tech, Italian-made, submarines that were capable of evading radar detection. As per latest reports received, the private firm has since been shut down.
The case appears unlikely to have a significant effect on relations between New Delhi and Doha, which are firm allies. The two nations continue to have extensive economic ties. As per media reports, last week, a deal worth billions of dollars was signed that will secure exports of Qatari liquified natural gas to India until the end of 2048.
Released Veterans Acknowledge Their Freedom
“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,” said one of the eight, a former Navy official.
“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,” said another released official. One of the released veterans also thanked the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bim Hamad Al Thand for their release.