Qatar frees eight former Indian Navy officers previously on death row

Delhi's foreign ministry thanks Qatar's Emir for decision to release the men, who were convicted of espionage

All eight of the men convicted in Qatar had served in the Indian Navy. Reuters
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Qatar has released eight Indian men convicted of spying by a Qatari court last year, India's External Affairs Ministry said on Monday.

The former Indian Navy personnel, including decorated officers, were working in Qatar for Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, which provided training and other related services to the Qatari armed forces.

According to reports in Indian media, the men, who were accused of spying for Israel, were arrested in 2022 and sentenced to death in August the following year, after being convicted.

They were reported to have been working on a sensitive project involving the construction of midget submarines with stealth capabilities.

We appreciate the decision by the Emir of the state of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals
Indian Ministry of External Affairs

Qatari authorities have not commented publicly on the case.

India's Ministry of External Affairs said in December that the men's death sentences had been commuted after an appeal.

Seven of the sailors have now returned to India, while the whereabouts of the eighth sailor is not clear.

“The government of India welcomes the release of eight Indian nationals working for Dahra Global company who were detained,” the Indian ministry said.

“We appreciate the decision by the Emir of the state of Qatar to enable the release and homecoming of these nationals."

The men have been identified as Capt Navtej Singh Gill, Cdr Purenendu Tiwari, Capt Saurabh Vasisht, Cdr Sanjeev Gupta, Capt Birendra Kumar Verma, Cdr Sugunakar Pakala, Cdr Amit Nagpal and Sailor Ragesh.

All of them served in the Indian Navy for at least 20 years.

In 2019, the Indian embassy in Doha awarded Cdr Tiwari the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman with the highest honour conferred on Indians overseas. The move was for his work enhancing India's image abroad.

India was provided consular access to the eight men during their time in jail.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim met at the Cop28 climate change summit in Dubai on December 2 last year.

“It couldn't have happened without intervention of Prime Minister Modi. We wouldn’t be standing if there was no intervention at the highest level, especially the government of India that consistently was working on this,” Cdr Gupta said after arriving in Delhi.

Updated: February 12, 2024, 6:56 AM