The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of India announced on Monday that the Emir of the State of Qatar decided to release eight Indian Navy veterans working for the Doha-based Dahra Global company, who were detained in Qatar due to their connection in an alleged espionage case in 2022.
The MEA statement reads:
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.
Commander Purnendu Tiwari, who has not yet reached India, is expected to be back soon.
The Indian nationals, identified as Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Purnendu Tiwari and Sailor Ragesh, were charged with spying for Israel. The charges were not made public, and the individuals were arrested in August 2022.
The Indian government was granted consular access to the individuals, facilitating their communication with their families. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar reiterated the government’s ongoing engagement with them. Retired Major General Satbir Singh, Chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, asserted that the individuals were en route to Qatar to train Qatari navy personnel. Singh further emphasized that among the group are elderly individuals with significant health issues.
In October 2023, the Court of First Instance of Qatar gave the navy veterans death sentences. However, the Court of Appeal of Qatar in December 2023 commuted their death penalty to imprisonment varying from three to 25 years. In January 2024, the MEA announced that the detained individuals had been given a 60-day window to appeal their prison terms as imposed by the Qatar court.
Qatar houses approximately 746,000 persons of Indian origin, which makes up about 25 percent of Qatar’s population. Both countries have maintained cooperation in a myriad of sectors and have a regular exchange of bilateral visits.