Qatar frees 8 Indian Navy veterans: Who are they? Why it's India's win? | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Qatar frees 8 Indian Navy veterans: Who are they? Why it's India's diplomatic win?

Feb 12, 2024 10:53 AM IST

Indian Navy veterans freed: On December 28, a Qatar court commuted the death sentences awarded last October and sentenced them to prison.

In what can be seen as a major diplomatic win for India, eight Indian Navy veterans, who were sentenced to death by a Doha court, were released by Qatar in a suprising move. The ministry of external affairs (MEA), in a statement, said on Monday that of the eight Indian nationals, seven have already returned to India. The capital punishment was commuted to an extended prison term earlier following diplomatic intervention by New Delhi.

Indian Navy veterans after arriving in New Delhi from Qatar on Monday.(ANI)
Indian Navy veterans after arriving in New Delhi from Qatar on Monday.(ANI)

Who are the 8 Indian Navy veterans?

  • On December 28 last year, Qatar’s Court of Appeal commuted the death sentences awarded last October and sentenced the eight men, who were working with Doha-based Al Dahra Global Technologies, to prison for varying durations ranging from three years to 25 years.
  • Doha-based Al Dahra Global Technologies, a private firm, provided training and other services to Qatar's armed forces and security agencies, news agency PTI reported.
  • The veterans – Captains Navtej Gill and Saurabh Vasisht, Commanders Purnendu Tiwari, Amit Nagpal, SK Gupta, BK Verma and Sugunakar Pakala, and sailor Ragesh – were detained in August 2022 on undeclared charges.
  • Among the eight veterans, Captain Navtej Gill was awarded the President's Gold Medal for excellence when he graduated from the Naval Academy and later served as an instructor at the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington in Tamil Nadu, PTI earlier reported.
  • People familiar with the matter had earlier said on condition of anonymity that Purnendu Tiwari was given a 25-year prison term, while Ragesh was given a three-year sentence. Four of the former Navy officers were given 15-year prison terms and two others 10-year prison terms, they said.
  • Several reports had suggested the men were accused of espionage though both Qatari and Indian authorities have not provided details of the charges against them.

India's efforts to bring the soldiers back

  • India had earlier expressed “deep shock” at the death sentence given by Qatar’s Court of First Instance and pledged to look at all legal options to help the eight men, including decorated officers who commanded frontline warships in the Indian Navy.
  • India had moved the Court of Appeal in Qatar against the death sentence. On December 28, Qatar’s Court of Appeal commuted the death sentences and sentenced them to prison.
  • Amid desperate pleas by the anxious kin of the Navy veterans to secure their release and safe passage back to their homeland, the MEA had assured that it would mobilise all diplomatic channels and arrange legal assistance to bring them back.
  • The Qatar court verdict is also seen as a big diplomatic win for India as it came weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit in Dubai. After the meeting on December 1, Modi said they had discussed the well-being of the Indian community in Qatar.
  • In January, the Court of Appeal court gave 60 days to the eight former Indian Navy personnel to appeal against varying prison terms given to them following commutation of their death sentences, the external affairs ministry said.
  • The court initially delivered the judgment as an oral order, and external affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal told a regular media briefing that the legal team aiding the eight men had received a copy of the verdict but it was a “confidential document”.

Indian govt welcomes Qatar court's decision

On February 12, the Union government released an official statement welcoming the decision to set the veteran officers free, saying, “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.”

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(With inputs from agencies)

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