Indian Navy veterans release: Commander Purnendu Tiwari (retd.) is also likely to come back to India soon

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New Delhi: Qatar has released eight jailed former Indian Navy personnel, 46 days after their death sentences handed last October were commuted to jail terms of varying duration. Seven of them returned home early Monday.

India appreciates the decision by the Emir of Qatar to enable the release and homecoming of the Indians, who were arrested in August 2022, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement on Monday.

The former Indian Navy personnel apparently faced charges of espionage but neither the Qatari authorities nor New Delhi made the charges against them public.

"The Government of India welcomes the release of eight Indian nationals working for the Dahra Global company who were detained in Qatar," the ministry said.

"Seven out of the eight of them have returned to India. We appreciate the decision by the Emir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals," it said in a brief statement.

The eight nationals are: Captains (retired) Navtej Gill and Saurabh Vasisht, Commanders (retired) Purnendu Tiwari, Amit Nagpal, SK Gupta, BK Verma, and Sugunakar Pakala, and sailor Ragesh.

People familiar with the matter said Commander Tiwari stayed back in Doha and is likely to come back to India soon.

On October 26, the Navy veterans were given death sentences by Qatar's Court of First Instance.

On December 28, the Court of Appeal in the Gulf nation commuted the capital punishment and sentenced them to jail terms for durations ranging from three years to 25 years.

The Court of Appeal had also given 60 days to appeal against the prison terms.

In December last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit in Dubai and discussed the well-being of the Indian community in Qatar.

It is learnt that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval played a role in the negotiations with the Qatari authorities in securing the release of the Indians.

The charges were filed against the eight Indian navy veterans on March 25 last year and they were tried under Qatari law.

In May last year, Al-Dhara Global closed its operations in Doha. All those working there (primarily Indians) have since returned home.

India was also looking at the possibility of invoking provisions of a bilateral pact on the transfer of sentenced persons.

The pact inked between India and Qatar in 2015 provides for citizens of India and Qatar who have been convicted and sentenced for criminal offences to serve their sentences in their home country.