Qatar has released eight former Indian naval officers previously sentenced to death on charges of spying for Israel. Seven out of the eight army veterans reached India late Sunday. India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) thanked Doha on Monday as it announced that the octet had been freed.
The details surrounding their arrest, sentencing, and commuting remain unclear. The octet were identified as Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, and Sailor Ragesh.
Of the eight, only Commander Purnendu Tiwari hasn’t returned yet. Although Commander Tiwari has been released from prison along with others, it’s not clear why he’s not back yet. However, Commander Tiwari too is expected to be back in India soon.
“We appreciate the decision by the Amir [Emir] of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals,” the ministry said in a statement in New Delhi.
According to Al Jazeera, the men were reportedly arrested in August 2022, due to accusations that they had passed sensitive submarine-related information to Israeli intelligence. Neither Qatar nor India officially confirmed the charges.
A preliminary court sentenced them to death last year, prompting India to express deep shock and file an appeal.
India confirmed in December that it had gained consular access to the prisoners. Later the same month, it said an appeals court had commuted their death sentence to varying prison terms.