Eight former Indian naval officers, who were previously sentenced to death on undisclosed charges by a Qatari court, have been released. Seven have already returned to India, as announced by Delhi’s foreign ministry on Monday. In January, authorities disclosed that the death penalty had been converted to prison sentences of different lengths. The charges against the men, employed by Dahra Global, a private firm in Qatar, were not revealed by either country. However, reports from the Financial Times and Reuters suggest that the charges were related to espionage for Israel.
Delhi’s foreign ministry expressed gratitude for the decision made by the Amir of the State of Qatar, facilitating the release and repatriation of these individuals. The arrest of the officers garnered significant attention in India in 2022. In October of the previous year, India expressed deep shock after the Court of First Instance in Qatar handed down the death sentences. In response, the Indian foreign ministry filed an appeal against the verdict.
Despite the initial strain on diplomatic relations, India and Qatar, being close allies, managed to navigate the situation. In December, India’s foreign ministry reported that its ambassador to Qatar had visited the officers in prison. Later that month, it was confirmed that the Court of Appeal in Qatar had commuted their death sentences. The final resolution came in January when the death penalties were officially converted into varying prison terms, although the specific durations were not disclosed. The incident briefly disrupted ties between the two nations, but sustained diplomatic efforts ultimately led to the release of the former naval officers. India and Qatar maintain a strong relationship, as evidenced by their recent $78 billion deal for the import of liquefied natural gas from Doha until the end of 2048.