Qatar’s release of eight Indian Navy veterans, who were sentenced to death on espionage charges, marked a significant diplomatic breakthrough between India and Qatar. India swiftly mobilised diplomatic channels and legal assistance to secure the release of the veterans after expressing “deep shock” at their death sentence by Qatar’s Court of First Instance. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) pledged to explore all legal options and moved the Court of Appeal in Qatar against the verdict. Amid pleas from their families, MEA assured to assist in their safe return, culminating in a successful diplomatic intervention by New Delhi.
Here’s a detailed chronology of the case:
Who are the eight former Indian Navy personnel who were released?
The released personnel include Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vashisht, Commander Purenendu Tiwari, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal, and Sailor Ragesh. They had distinguished careers in the Indian Navy, with some receiving awards for excellence.
Timeline of the case (2022-2024)
- August 2022: Arrested in an alleged case of espionage while working with the private company Al Dahra.
- October 2022: Imprisoned and accused of spying on a submarine programme.
- March 2023: Charged under Qatari law.
- May 2023: Company operations ceased, and Indian employees returned home.
- October 2023: Sentenced to death by Qatar’s Court of First Instance.
- November–December 2023: Legal appeals and engagement with Qatari authorities.
- December 27, 2023: The appellate court commuted their death sentences.
- January 4, 2024: A window opened for appeal in Qatar’s highest court.
- February 12, 2024: Doha releases all eight Navy veterans, with seven returning to India.
Legal proceedings and future steps
After the commutation of their death sentences, the Court of Appeal granted 60 days for the veterans to appeal against their prison terms. The detailed judgment, initially delivered orally, is expected to be received by the legal team aiding the veterans. The Indian government remains committed to providing consular and legal assistance to the veterans and will continue to engage with Qatari authorities to ensure their welfare.
Welcoming Qatar court’s decision
The Indian government hailed the decision to release the veterans, with seven out of the eight already returning to India. The government appreciated Qatar’s move, expressing gratitude to the Amir of the State of Qatar for enabling their release and safe return home. This diplomatic breakthrough underscores the close ties between India and Qatar, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s discussions on the well-being of the Indian community during his meeting with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.