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DNA Explainer: Who are the 8 Indian Navy veterans released by Qatar? Why is it seen as a big diplomatic win for India?

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement, asserted on Monday that among the eight Indian nationals, seven have returned to India. The capital punishment was modified to an extended prison term earlier after a diplomatic intervention by New Delhi.

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Jaisal Kaur

Updated: Feb 12, 2024, 07:14 PM IST

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In a significant diplomatic victory for India, eight Indian Navy veterans, who were granted death sentence in Qatar, were released by a court in Doha. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement, asserted on Monday that among the eight Indian nationals, seven have returned to India. The capital punishment was modified to an extended prison term earlier after a diplomatic intervention by New Delhi.

Who are the 8 Indian Navy veterans?

On December 28 last year, Qatar’s Court of Appeal modified the death sentences granted last October and sentenced the eight men, who were working along Doha-based Al Dahra Global Technologies, for different durations ranging from three years to 25 years.

Doha-based Al Dahra Global Technologies, a private firm, offered training and other services to Qatar's armed forces and security agencies, PTI reported.

The veterans – Captains Navtej Gill and Saurabh Vasisht, Commanders Purnendu Tiwari, Amit Nagpal, SK Gupta, BK Verma and Sugunakar Pakala, and sailor Ragesh – were detained in August 2022 on unexplained charges.

Among the veterans, Captain Navtej Gill was felicitated with the President's Gold Medal for excellence when he graduated from the Naval Academy and worked as an instructor at the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington in Tamil Nadu.

As per sources, Veteran Purnendu Tiwari was granted a 25-year prison term, while Ragesh was given a three-year sentence. Four of the former Navy officers were given 15-year prison terms and two others 10-year prison terms.

Numerous reports claimed that the men were accused of espionage although both Qatari and Indian authorities have not explained charges against them.

India's efforts to enable the return

India had exclaimed “deep shock” at the death sentence given by Qatar’s Court of First Instance and promised to resort to legal options to help the eight men. It challenged the Court of Appeal in Qatar against the death sentence. On December 28, Qatar’s Court of Appeal modified the death sentences and sentenced them to prison.

Amid numerous pleas by the kin of the Navy veterans to secure their release and safe return, the MEA had assured that it would utilize all diplomatic channels and arrange legal assistance to bring them back.

The Qatar court verdict is seen as a big diplomatic win for India as it follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, ahead of the COP28 Summit in Dubai. After the meeting on December 1, Modi expressed they had discussed the plight of the Indians in Qatar.

In January, the Court of Appeal granted 60 days to the eight former Indian Navy personnel to challenge prison terms given to them following modification of their death sentences, the external affairs ministry said.

On February 12, the Union government released an official statement hailing the order to release the veteran officers. “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,” it stated.

 
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