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‘It would not have happened without PM Modi’s personal intervention’: Navy veterans released from Qatar thank PM. Here is a timeline of the saga

Speaking to ANI, the Navy veterans lauded PM Modi for raising the matter with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. They attributed their release to relentless diplomatic efforts at his behest.

On 12th February, eight Indian Navy veterans who were given the death penalty in Qatar four months ago were finally released from captivity. Ministry of External Affairs thanked the Amir of the State of Qatar for enabling the release and home-coming of the Indian nationals.

In the press release, the ministry said, “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.”

Seven of the eight Indian Navy veterans have returned to India. Notably, they were sentenced to death on the accusations of espionage. The release has been possible only because of the diplomatic efforts made by the Indian government and the personal intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. The government of India also provided legal assistance to them as required.

Speaking to ANI, the Navy veterans lauded PM Modi for raising the matter with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. They attributed their release to relentless diplomatic efforts at his behest.

One Navy veteran said, “I feel relieved and delighted to be back home safe and sound finally. I wish to thank Prime Minister Modi as this wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for his personal intervention to secure our release. I also wish to express my gratitude to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar.”

Another veteran added, “Without the intervention of PM Modi, we would not have walked free. We wouldn’t be standing before you today had it not been for his untiring efforts and interventions at the highest levels to get us freedom.”

Another freed veteran said, “We, as well as our anxious family members back home, had been waiting for this day for a long time. It all worked out because of PM Modi and his personal intervention in the matter. He took up our case with the highest levels of the Qatari government and eventually secured our release. I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude to him and the Emir of Qatar.”

“We are very happy to be back, and it wouldn’t have been possible had the honourable Prime Minister not taken a personal interest in the matter. I also thank the Qatar Emir for his personal involvement in the matter,” said another former Navy officer.

Another Navy veteran added, “We waited almost 18 months to be back home to our loved ones in India. We are extremely grateful to PM Modi for getting us back. We wouldn’t have seen this day without the joint efforts of PM Modi and the Emir of Qatar. The personal equations that the two leaders share also helped in our release.”

Timeline of the arrest and release

These officers were arrested in Doha on 30th August 2022 and languished in the Qatar jail for over a year on the charges of espionage and spying. The Qatar authorities accused them of spying for Israel.

Qatar’s intelligence agency had picked them up from their homes in the middle of the night on the day of the arrest. They were put in solitary confinement. For months after their arrest, the Qatar authorities never specified the charges that had been pressed against them. Only recently did they confirm that the Indian Navy personnel, who were held in solitary confinement for long spells, have been charged with the offence of spying for Israel on the country’s advanced submarines.

The Qatar State Security, the state intelligence agency, had claimed that it had intercepted electronic communications, establishing that the naval officers were spying on the submarine programme. The agency had, however, not shared the information with India.

Reports that the former Indian Navy officers may have been “framed” by Pakistani intelligence agencies surfaced in April of this year. The case of Kulbhushan Yadav, a former commander of the Indian navy who was abducted from Iran and imprisoned in Pakistan on suspicion of spying, is said to have been used by the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI to convince the Qatari authorities against these eight decorated ex-Indian Navy officers.

Though the Ministry of External Affairs did everything in its power to secure their release, the Navy veterans were awarded a death sentence on 26th October 2023.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs  reacted strongly to the verdict, saying India was “deeply shocked.” MEA added that it would continue to extend all consular and legal assistance to secure the release of the eight former Indian Navy officers.

In November 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai and discussed bilateral partnership and the “well-being of the Indian community” living in Qatar.

On 9th November 2023, India filed an appeal against the death penalty for the former navy officers. To that point, the court verdict was confidential. Later, on 24th November 2023, the Qatar court accepted India’s appeal against the death penalty awarded to the navy veterans. The efforts of the Indian government started to show signs of hope as on 28th December 2023, the Qatar court commuted the death sentence to jail terms. Finally, after a wait of another one and half months, the veterans were released on 12th February 2024 and seven out of eight returned to India.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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