The government announced early today that 8 Indian Navy personnel who were jailed in Qatar on espionage charges have been released. Seven of them have already returned to India after 18 months of imprisonment in the Middle Eastern country.
“Government of India welcomes the release of eight Indian nationals working for Tahra Global who were detained in Qatar. 7 out of 8 have returned to India. We appreciate the decision taken by the Amir of the Government of Qatar. The release and repatriation of these nationals,” the Ministry of External Affairs said.
Sources told NDTV that the soldiers had no prior notice of their release and were picked up by consular officials shortly after their release. They boarded an Indigo flight yesterday and returned after 2 am.
Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sukhunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal and Sailor Rakesh were arrested in August 2022 and are in jail.
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They were employed by Tahra Global, a private company, and helped introduce Italian U212 stealth submarines to Qatar in their individual roles in the Qatar Emiri Naval Force.
A Qatari court sentenced them to death on October 26, 2023. India said it was “deeply shocked” by the verdict and was exploring all legal options.
The death penalty was commuted in December, weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai.
The Navy personnel, who have now returned, thanked Prime Minister Modi and the government for their release.
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“We are very happy that we have returned to India safely. Of course, we would like to thank PM Modi as this was possible only with his personal intervention,” said one of them.
“We have been waiting for almost 18 months to return to India. We are very grateful to the Prime Minister. Without his personal intervention and his equation with Qatar, this would not have been possible. We are grateful to the Indian government from the ground up. Our hearts for every effort taken, without those efforts this day would not have been possible,” said another. .