8 former Indian Navy officers released by Qatari authorities, 7 back in India: MEA
This follows months of intense diplomatic engagement from the highest levels of the Indian government
In a major diplomatic victory for India, Qatar has released eight former Indian Navy personnel who were in jail under security-related charges; their death sentences had earlier been commuted to jail terms of varying durations on an appeal by the Indian authorities.
The development follows months of intense diplomatic engagement from the highest levels of the Indian government to get the eight Indian Navy veterans, who were working for Dahra Global company, out of a Qatari jail. It is worth noting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Qatar Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad in early December last year.
Welcoming the development, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Monday (January 12, 2024) that seven of them had 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 MEA said.
The former Indian Navy officers were working for the Doha-based Dahra Global firm when they were detained in August 2022. The charges against them were not made public by the Qatari authorities but some news reports suggested they were charged with espionage-related crimes.
The first hearing in the case was held on March 29, 2023 after it was referred to the court by the public prosecution.
On October 26, 2023, a court in Qatar awarded the death penalty to these eight Indian nationals. An appeal against this order was subsequently filed on behalf of their families which led to the court of appeal in Qatar to commute the death sentence and hand them reduced jail terms of varying durations.
The court proceedings had remained confidential, with neither the Qatari nor the Indian government commenting on the nature of the charges against the eight even as India engaged at the diplomatic level to secure their release.
Briefing the media on the status of the case on December 7, 2024, MEA Official Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi referred to the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Qatar Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad on the sidelines of COP-28 in Dubai on December 1, 2023. The two leaders discussed the bilateral relations in detail and the well-being of the Indian community in Qatar, Bagchi said.
Earlier, while the legal proceedings were on, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met the family members of the former Indian Navy officers in New Delhi on October 30, 2023 and assured them that the Indian government would continue to make all efforts to secure their release.
The Indian Ambassador got consular access to meet the eight former Indian Navy officials on December 3, 2023. The Indian Embassy in Qatar had earlier received consular access to the jailed Indians in November.