More than 18 months after their arrest jeopardised diplomatic relations, eight Indian ex-naval officers were freed from prison by Qatar after their death sentences were revoked, the Indian foreign ministry announced on Monday. The emir of Qatar is credited with making this decision.
Sources claim that the men were charged with spying for Israel; however, neither India nor Qatar confirmed the allegations. The death sentence that had been imposed on them in October was revoked in December.
Seven of these officers, according to India, have returned home. Upon their arrival in New Delhi, some of the men told the media that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “personal intervention” was the reason they were set free.
“We appreciate the decision by the Amir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals,” said the ministry.
The announcement was made a few days after the largest-ever agreement between Indian and Qatari businesses to supply liquefied natural gas was inked, and after Modi met with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, during the COP28 climate summit in Dubai in December to talk about the “well-being of the Indian community in Qatar”.
At the time of their arrest, the men were employed by a private company to work on a submarine project for the Qatari authorities. After the men’s arrest in August 2022, New Delhi and Qatar held discussions for several months together. The case questioned connections with Doha, one of the world’s largest energy importers and a vital source of natural gas for India.