New Delhi: The release of eight Indian Navy veterans was possible due to the personal intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Monday adding the leader never shied away from any steps that would ensure the return of the countrymen. While addressing a special briefing on PM Modi’s upcoming visit to Abu Dhabi, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said, “We are grateful for their return. We deeply appreciate the decision of Qatar’s government and the Amir to release them. We are happy to have seven of those Indian nationals back. The 8th Indian national has also been released, and we continue to work with the Qatar government to see how quickly his return to India would be possible.
“The Prime Minister has himself personally constantly supervised all the developments in this case and has never shied away from any initiatives that would ensure the return of Indian nationals back home,” he added.
Ajit Doval also played a significant role in release
It is worth mentioning the eight nationals were awarded a death sentence by the Qatar court on the charges of alleged espionage. However, the sentence was later reduced following the intervention of higher officials. Those who returned today included: Captains (retired) Navtej Gill and Saurabh Vasisht, Commanders (retired) Purnendu Tiwari, Amit Nagpal, SK Gupta, BK Verma, and Sugunakar Pakala, and sailor Ragesh.
People familiar with the matter said Commander Tiwari stayed back in Doha and is likely to come back to India soon. In December last year, Modi met Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit in Dubai and discussed the well-being of the Indian community in Qatar.
It is learnt that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval played a role in the negotiations with the Qatari authorities in securing the release of the Indians.
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The Navy veterans were given death sentences by Qatar’s Court of First Instance on October 26. On December 28, the Court of Appeal in the Gulf nation commuted the capital punishment and sentenced them to jail terms for durations ranging from three years to 25 years. The Court of Appeal had also given 60 days to appeal against the prison terms. The charges were filed against the eight Indian navy veterans on March 25 last year and they were tried under Qatari law. In May last year, Al-Dhara Global closed its operations in Doha. All those working there (primarily Indians) have since returned home. India was also looking at the possibility of invoking provisions of a bilateral pact on the transfer of sentenced persons. The pact inked between India and Qatar in 2015 provides for citizens of India and Qatar who have been convicted and sentenced for criminal offences to serve their sentences in their home country.