In a major diplomatic triumph for India, eight veterans of the Indian Navy who were sentenced to death in Qatar were released by Doha on Monday.
The capital punishment was commuted to an extended prison term earlier following diplomatic intervention by New Delhi.
Amid desperate pleas by the anxious kin of the Navy veterans to secure their release and safe passage back to their homeland, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had assured that it would mobilise all diplomatic channels and arrange legal assistance to bring them back.
Of the eight former Navy officers, seven have already returned to India, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) informed.
An official statement welcoming the decision to free the veteran officers 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,” the statement concluded.
The eight Indian nationals were imprisoned in Qatar since October 2022 and were accused of allegedly spying on a submarine programme. The retired naval personnel were sentenced to death by a Qatar court on charges that have not yet been made public officially.
Earlier, the Qatari Court commuted the death penalty sentence of eight ex-Indian naval officers it had arrested last year in the Dahra Global case, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a press statement. The sentence has now been reduced to jail terms.
Describing the judgement, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said, “We have noted the verdict today of the Court of Appeal of Qatar in the Dahra Global case, in which the sentences have been reduced.
“The MEA also said that the detailed judgement in the case is awaited and are in close touch with the legal team in Qatar.
MEA added, “The detailed judgement is awaited. We are in close touch with the legal team and the family members to decide on the next steps. Our Ambassador to Qatar and other officials were present in the Court of Appeal today, along with the family members. We have stood by them since the beginning of the matter and we will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance. We will continue to take up the matter with the Qatari authorities.”
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.
Earlier, the newly appointed spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, Jaiswal, emphasised the temporal significance of this period, stating, “As far as the issue is concerned, there is a time of 60 days when this issue can be appealed in the Court of Cassation, which is the highest court in Qatar.”
The MEA’s legal team possesses the confidential court order detailing the commutation of the death sentences to imprisonment terms, a move revealed in a press release following the court of appeal’s judgement on December 28.
“We issued a press release in which we informed you that the death sentence, which was originally a death penalty, has been changed to an imprisonment sentence. Our legal team has that court order, and I can confirm that all of them have received sentences of different durations, and the death penalty has been abolished,” Jaiswal said.
Moreover, according to a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs, the Court of First Instance of Qatar had also passed the judgement against them.
The MEA spokesperson also highlighted the recent meeting that took place between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad and said that they have had a good conversation on the overall bilateral relationship.
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