Qatar frees Indian Navy veterans: Who are the 8 personnel? A detailed chronology of the case

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Qatar has released eight Indian Navy veterans who were sentenced to death on espionage charges. Seven of the eight former Indian Navy personnel have now returned to India. The release of the Indian Navy veterans and freeing them of espionage charges marks a significant diplomatic breakthrough between India and Qatar.

Who are the eight former Indian Navy personnel who were released?

The former Indian Navy personnel are 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. All of these former Navy officers had “unblemished stints” of up to 20 years in the Indian Navy. All of the former Navy officers had “unblemished stints” of up to 20 years in the Indian Navy and had held important positions including that of instructors in the force, former military officials had said as reported by news agency PTI. Among these veterans, Captain Gill was awarded the President’s Gold Medal for excellence when he had graduated from the Naval Academy and later served as an instructor at the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington in Tamil Nadu.

A look at the timeline of the case from 2022-2024  

August 2022: The Indian nationals, who worked with private company Al Dahra, were arrested in August reportedly in an alleged case of espionage.

October 2022: The eight Indian nationals were imprisoned in Qatar since October 2022 and were accused of allegedly spying on a submarine programme. 

March 2023: The charges were filed against the eight Indian Navy veterans on March 25 and they were tried under Qatari law.

May 2023: In May, Al-Dhara Global closed its operations in Doha and all those working there (primarily Indians) have since returned home.

October 2023: The eight Indians were on October 26 given death sentences by Qatar’s Court of First Instance. India described the ruling as “deeply” shocking and vowed to explore all legal options in the case.

9 November 2023: An appeal was filed against the death sentence and a higher court in Qatar admitted the plea. The appeal was filed by the legal team of the detained Indian nationals.

16 November 2023: India said the appeal process against the death sentence handed down to eight former Indian Navy personnel by a Qatari court is under process and it was hopeful of a positive outcome from it. External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said India is engaged with the Qatari authorities on the matter and that the government will continue to extend all legal and consular assistance to the Indian nationals.

23 November 2023: India’s appeal against the death penalty was accepted.

7 December 2023: The Indian ambassador to Qatar met eight former Indian Navy personnel who were handed death sentence by a Qatari court in October. MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said two hearings on the appeal against the death sentence have already taken place.

27 December 2023: An appellate court in Qatar commuted the death sentence of eight Indian veterans. “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 EAM had said in a statement. The ministry did not specify what was the “reduced” punishment and said a detailed judgment was awaited. The appellate court verdict was also seen as a big diplomatic win for India as it came weeks after PM Modi’s meeting with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit in Dubai.

4 January 2024: A week after a Qatar court commuted the death sentences of eight Indian ex-Navy personnel, the External Affairs Ministry said that a 60-day window has opened to appeal the case in the highest court in Qatar. During a press briefing, the MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal had said that the legal team of the MEA had the court order, which was a confidential document. 

12 February: Eight veterans of the Indian Navy who were sentenced to death in Qatar, were released by Doha. On their release, the Union government released an official statement welcoming the decision to set the veteran officers free and 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.”

(With agency inputs)

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Published: 12 Feb 2024, 08:10 AM IST

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