The government announced early this morning that eight Indian Navy personnel who had been detained in Qatar on suspicion of spying have been freed. After serving an eighteen-month jail sentence in the Middle East, seven of them have already returned to India.
“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 foreign ministry said.
According to accounts, the veterans were hauled away by embassy representatives soon after they were let free and had no prior knowledge of their release. They said that yesterday they took an IndiGo flight and arrived back around two in the morning.
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 their individual capacities, they were in Qatar to help the Italian U212 stealth submarines be integrated into the Qatari Emiri Naval Force. They worked for a private company called Dahra Global.
On October 26, 2023, a Qatari court sentenced them to death. “Deeply shocked” by the ruling, India has stated that it was considering all legal possibilities.
Weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar during the COP28 conference in Dubai, the death penalty was commuted in December.
The Navy veterans hailed Prime Minister Modi and the administration for securing their freedom after they were allowed to return home.
“We are very happy that we are back in India, safely. Definitely, we would like to thank PM Modi as this was only possible because of his personal intervention,” said one of them.
“We waited almost for 18 months to be back in India. We are extremely grateful to the PM. It wouldn’t have been possible without his personal intervention and his equation with Qatar. We are grateful to the Government of India from the bottom of our hearts for every effort that has been made and this day won’t have been possible without those efforts,” said another.