Last year, a Qatari court handed death sentences to 8 Indian navy personnel for espionage on behalf of Israel

This combination of images shows three of seven of the eight former members of the Indian Navy speaking to the media after they reached India. — X/@_Yuvraj_Rathor
  • Qatar commuted ex-navy officials’ death penalty in December 2023.
  • They were employees of company working on secret submarine program.
  • Release follows PM Modi’s meeting with Emir of Qatar at COP28.

Seven of the eight former members of the Indian Navy returned to their country in the early hours of Monday after being placed on death row for espionage on behalf of Israel in Qatar over three and a half months ago. 

Last year, the Court of Appeal in Qatar on December 28 commuted the death penalty of eight navy officials and sentenced them to jail terms for varying durations, Mint reported.

The navy officials included Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vashisht, Commander Purenendu Tiwari, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal and Sailor Ragesh.

According to Indian media, the navy officials, who were arrested in August 2022, were senior employees of Dahra Global Technologies and Consulting Services, a company advising on a Qatari programme aimed at obtaining high-tech Italian-made submarines that could evade radar detection.

The organisation which had utilised around 75 Indian nationals, mostly former naval force staff, shut down in May 2023, Al Jazeera reported.

After a few months of detainment, Qatari officials revealed that the men were spying on the country’s secret submarine program for Israel.

In October 2023, the navy officials were given death sentences by Qatar’s Court of First Instance in a case of suspected espionage.

However, on the sidelines of the Conference of the Parties (COP 28) climate sustainability summit in Dubai in December last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a “good conversation” with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim Bin Hamad, about the well-being of the Indian community in Qatar.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “The Indian National Congress joins the entire nation in its relief and happiness that the eight former Indian Navy personnel earlier sentenced to death by a court in Qatar have been released and are back home.”

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