Eight former Indian Navy officers detained in Qatar have been released. Seven out of these eight Indians have also returned back to India.
The Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement saying, ‘We welcome the release of eight Indian nationals who were working at Dahra Global Company and were detained in Qatar.’
These Indians were detained in Qatar in August 2022. Last year, the Qatar court had convicted him in the espionage case and sentenced him to death. However, later this punishment was reduced.
The release of the Indians has come at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to Doha, the capital of Qatar on 14 February. PM Modi will reach Qatar after his UAE tour.
Who were these Indians?
The 8 former Navy officers who were kept in custody in Qatar are Captain Saurabh Vashishtha, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal and Sailor Ragesh.
All these former officers had served in the Indian Navy for 20 years. While in the Navy, his tenure has been impeccable and he has held important positions.
Commander Purnendu Tiwari was also honored with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman by the then President Ramnath Kovind in 2019. At the same time, Captain Navtej Gill has been awarded the President’s Gold Medal.
Now, except Commander Purnendu Tiwari, all the other former officers have returned to India. News agency PTI has told that he is currently in Doha and will return to India soon.
Also read: ‘Return was not possible without Modi…’, former marines sentenced to death expressed gratitude, said this on the Emir of Qatar
Last year there was death sentence
These former officers were arrested in August 2022. But its news came to light on October 25, when Mitu Bhargava, sister of Commander Purnendu Tiwari, posted on social media.
Mitu Bhargava posted on X and said, eight former officers of the Indian Navy are in illegal detention in Doha, the capital of Qatar for 57 days.
Then on March 1 last year, their bail petitions were rejected. Charges were framed on March 25 and the trial began on March 29. On October 26, the court sentenced all of them to death.
This is how the release was decided in 108 days
On 26 October the eight Indians were sentenced to death, and all returned to India on the morning of 12 February. That means he was released within 108 days after the death sentence was announced.
After the decision of death penalty, the Indian Foreign Ministry said, ‘We are surprised by the decision of death penalty. We are waiting for the detailed copy of the decision. We are also in touch with the family members and the legal team. All legal options are being explored to ensure the release of Indian citizens.
A few days after this decision, India appealed on 9 November. On November 23, the court accepted this appeal. The approval of this appeal within a month of the death sentence decision was a big victory.
But amidst all this, the biggest news of relief came on December 28, when the Qatar court reduced the death sentence. The court sentenced him to three to 25 years of jail. Also given 60 days time to appeal against this sentence. Only after this decision a new path opened for the release of these Indians.
Also read: Team Modi which facilitated the return home of 8 former Navy officers imprisoned in Qatar
PM Modi’s meeting with the Emir of Qatar
Last year in December, PM Modi went to Dubai to attend COP28. On the sidelines of this summit, he met Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
This meeting between PM Modi and the Emir of Qatar took place at a time when Indians were lodged in Qatar jail. It was believed that the release of Indians was also discussed in this meeting.
However, both the countries did not officially confirm it. Then Foreign Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal had said that there was a good talk between the two regarding bilateral relations.
Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was personally closely monitoring the developments in this matter.
Jaishankar ahead, Doval behind
Foreign Minister Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval played a big role in the release of Indians jailed in Qatar.
While Jaishankar was playing on the front foot, Doval was handling the entire work backstage. Jaishankar took charge of the front related to diplomacy. Jaishankar had also met the families of these eight Indians.
At the same time, the entire responsibility of negotiating with the Qatari authorities for the release of the Indians was on Doval. On the advice of Prime Minister Modi, NSA Doval held several rounds of talks with Qatari officials. It is said that after the death sentence decision, Doval had gone to Doha two to three times.
Also read: India’s big diplomatic victory, 8 former marines released from Qatar jail, 7 returned to India
Plan-B was also ready!
There was constant pressure on the Modi government to release these Indians. Opposition parties were also cornering the government on this issue. Meanwhile, the government had also prepared Plan-B.
According to news agency PTI, the Modi government was thinking of implementing the provisions of an agreement signed with Qatar in 2015. This agreement is related to exchange of prisoners.
Under this agreement, both India and Qatar can send citizens lodged in each other’s jails to their country to serve their remaining sentences. Through this agreement, India could bring back its eight citizens imprisoned in Qatar. However, this did not come to pass.
But why were they punished?
Qatar had not told anything about the allegations against these Indians. But quoting the local media there it was claimed that he was accused of espionage.
All these retired officers from the Navy worked in a company named Al-Dahra in Doha. This company used to provide technology and services. It was run by Khamis Al Azmi, a retired squadron leader from Oman’s Air Force. He was also arrested, but was later released. This company was closed on May 31 last year.
These former officers were allegedly accused of spying for Israel. He was accused that a deal was about to be made between Qatar and Italy regarding a submarine, information about which he had given to Israel.