Eight Indian Navy veterans were released by the Qatar government, nearly three-and-half months after they were convicted with death sentences reportedly on charges of espionage. The former Navy personnel working for a private company Al Dahra Global in Doha were set free due to sustained diplomatic efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself besides that of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Seven of eight Navy veterans — Commanders Amit Nagpal, SK Gupta, BK Verma and Sugunakar Pakala; Captains Navtej Gill and Saurabh Vasisht and Sailor Rajesh arrived at the airport here early morning after being pardoned by Qatar government while Commander Purnendu Tiwari is expected to arrive later. Elated veterans shouted ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ at the airport, with most if them expressing their gratitude to PM Modi for returning home. It would not have been possible but for Modi taking up their issue with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was the common feeling of the retired naval employees.

“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 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,” one them told media at the airport.

Another ex-naval officer too praised Modi for walking 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,” he said with glee on his face.

Appreciating the decision of Amir of Qatar, the MEA on Monday, stated that all the eight jailed Navy veterans have been released. Seven of eight returned to India on Monday. “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 announced in a brief statement issued in the morning.

Interestingly, Modi will travel to Doha on February 14, after completing his UAE official tour a day before, and meet Emir of Qatar and other top dignitaries for bilateral talks. 

The Indian nationals were arrested by the Qatar intelligence agency in August 2022, on allegations of espionage and Qatar’s Court of First Instance handing over death sentences to them on October 26, which came as a surprise for the Indian government. Since the MEA and PM Modi launched extensive diplomatic efforts, the Court of Appeal on December 28, reduced the capital punishment to jail terms for varying durations to each of eight Navy veterans. Throughout the court trial, Qatar authorities, former Navy officials, and the Indian government kept silent on the case and even the release came as a surprise on Monday.

After the case, Al-Dhara Global closed its operations in Doha, last May and other Indians working with the company returned home.