Seven of the eight Indian Navy veterans, released by the Qatar government more than three months after they were convicted with death sentences on charges of espionage, returned to India on Monday. The eighth veteran is still in Doha, awaiting completion of official formalities, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.

The release comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Doha on February 14 after his two-day visit to the UAE. While Modi’s visit to the UAE was announced by the MEA last week, his subsequent visit to Doha was announced on Monday, a day after the former Navy officials were released by Qatar.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Qatari capital Doha on February 14 after concluding his two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates.

The announcement on Modi’s visit to Qatar came a day after the Gulf nation released eight jailed former Indian naval personnel.

“We are gratified by Qatar’s decision to release the Indians. We deeply appreciate it,” Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said answering a query at a press briefing on Monday. The Foreign Secretary said the Prime Minister had personally supervised developments in the case.

The delay in the return of the eighth ex-naval officer was not due to any unresolved complications with his release but because the person had been staying in the country for over twenty years and several related issues needed to be taken care of, a source told businessline.

“All formalities for the return of the eighth person are being carried out by the Indian and the Qatar government. This person had been staying in the country with his family for over twenty years and there are many related issues that have to be attended to before he returns,” the source said.

Modi will hold wide-ranging discussions with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to further expand bilateral ties, Kwatra said.

On arrival at the airport here early morning, the freed Navy veterans, working for a private company Al Dahra Global in Doha, shouted ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. One of the former Navy personnel told the media that they would not have been freed but for Prime Minister Modi taking up their issue with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. “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,” he said, without disclosing his name.

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 a glee on his face.

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.