Eight Indian Navy veterans who were detained in Qatar over alleged spying charges have been released, bringing an end to their 18-month ordeal. The government confirmed their release, with seven of the eight individuals already back in India.
The Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement welcoming the release of the Indian nationals who were working for the Dahra Global company in Qatar. Expressing gratitude to the Amir of the State of Qatar for facilitating the release, the ministry stated, "We appreciate the decision by the Amir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals."
The veterans, including Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal, and Sailor Ragesh, were arrested in August 2022. They had been working for Dahra Global and were involved in supporting the introduction of Italian U212 stealth submarines into the Qatari Emiri Naval Force.
Back on October 26, 2023, a Qatari court had sentenced them to death. India strongly protested the verdict, expressing shock and exploring all legal options. The capital punishment was later commuted in December, following discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Qatar's Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani during the COP28 summit in Dubai.
The veterans, who had no prior knowledge of their release, were swiftly taken away by embassy officials after being freed. They boarded an IndiGo flight and arrived back in India after 2 am. Expressing their gratitude, the Navy veterans thanked PM Modi and the government for securing their release.
One of the released individuals stated, "We waited almost for 18 months to be back in India. We are extremely grateful to the PM. It wouldn't have been possible without his personal intervention and his equation with Qatar."
Another veteran expressed, "We are grateful to the Government of India from the bottom of our hearts for every effort that has been made, and this day won't have been possible without those efforts." The government and Prime Minister Modi were acknowledged for their crucial role in ensuring the safe return of the Navy veterans.