In a significant development today, the Ministry of External Affairs has officially confirmed the release of eight former Navy officers who were previously sentenced to death in Qatar. As per the announcement made on Monday, February 12th, seven out of the eight officers have already returned to India.
Expressing their gratitude, the former Navy officers conveyed their thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his personal intervention in the matter. They also acknowledged the consistent efforts of the Government of India, which ultimately led to their release.
Sources close to the matter have revealed that Prime Minister Modi’s close rapport with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim ibn Hamad Al Thani, played a crucial role in facilitating the release. Additionally, behind-the-scenes diplomacy spearheaded by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval further contributed to this positive outcome. Reports suggest that NSA Doval made multiple trips to Doha to engage with Qatari leadership, ensuring that India’s perspective was effectively conveyed.
The former Navy officers were arrested by Qatari authorities on charges of espionage and spying for the Israeli government. Although the exact nature of the charges remains undisclosed, media reports had previously indicated their alleged involvement in such activities.
Following their arrest, all eight ex-Indian Navy officers were sentenced to death in October 2023. However, relentless efforts from the Indian government, including the filing of an appeal against the death sentence in November 2023, resulted in a significant breakthrough. The Qatari court subsequently commuted the death sentence to a prison term, paving the way for their eventual release.
Notably, Prime Minister Modi’s meeting with Emir Sheikh Al-Thani during the COP28 summit in Dubai in November 2023 provided an opportunity to discuss bilateral relations and pertinent issues concerning the Indian community in Qatar.
In January 2024, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal shed light on the legal proceedings surrounding the case, highlighting a crucial 60-day appeal period in the Court of Cessation, Qatar’s highest court. He confirmed the transformation of the death sentence into imprisonment, underscoring the tireless efforts of India’s legal team in securing this outcome.
He said, “As far as the issue is concerned, there is a time of 60 days when this issue can be appealed in the Court of Cessation, which is the highest court in Qatar.”
He added, “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 they all have received sentences of different durations, and the death penalty has been abolished.”
While specific details of the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad remain undisclosed, it is speculated that the matter of the Navy officers’ release may have been addressed during their discussions.
The successful resolution of this diplomatic ordeal marks a significant triumph for India and underscores the importance of strategic partnerships in navigating complex international challenges.