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How Narendra Modi government ensured release of 8 ex-Navy officers from ‘death row’ in Qatar prison: Details

PM Modi met with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai in November 2023.

On Monday, 12th February, the Ministry of External Affairs announced that eight former Navy officers, who were sentenced to death in Qatar were released. Seven out of eight officers have already returned to India. The former Navy officers thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his personal intervention in the matter and the Government of India’s consistent efforts that led to their release.

It has come to light that PM Modi’s personal relationship with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim ibn Hamad Al Thani, and the behind-the-scenes diplomacy by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval played a vital role in their release from custody. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar handled the diplomatic front in the matter, while Ajit Doval played the role of the advisor to PM Modi. Hindustan Times report suggested that NSA Doval made multiple trips to Doha to approach Qatari leadership and ensure that India’s point of view was adequately presented.

Notably, the eight former Indian Navy officials were arrested by Qatar on alleged charges of espionage and spying for the Israeli government. The exact charges, however, were not disclosed, and the information about the charges was only based on media reports. In October 2023, all eight ex-Indian Navy officers were awarded a death sentence.

The efforts from the Indian side did not slow down, and India filed an appeal against the death sentence in November 2023. The efforts showed signs of progress when the Qatari court commuted the death sentence to a prison term. However, the Indian government aimed to bring the ex-Navy officers back to the country.

Meanwhile, PM Modi met with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai in November 2023. They discussed bilateral partnership and the “well-being of the Indian community” living in Qatar.

In January 2024, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal emphasised the temporal significance of this period. He said, “As far as the issue is concerned, there is a time of 60 days when this issue can be appealed in the Court of Cessation, which is the highest court in Qatar.” He added, “We issued a press release in which we informed you that the death sentence, which was originally a death penalty, has been changed to imprisonment sentence. Now our legal team has that court order, and I can confirm that they all have received sentences of different duration’s, and the death penalty has been abolished.”

Notably, MEA’s legal team consistently pursued the case and had a confidential court order with details of the matter in their possession. Jaiswal also highlighted that PM Modi and Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad met to discuss the bilateral relationships. Though the ministry did not reveal in-depth details of the meeting, it is believed that PM Modi might have raised the matter during the meeting.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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