Qatar releases former Indian navy officers after dropping death sentences

Seven of the men have already been returned to India, but details of the case remain scant.

The case of the former Indian officers reportedly involved passing sensitive information on Italian-made submarines [Reuters]Published On 12 Feb 202412 Feb 2024

Qatar has released eight former Indian naval officers previously sentenced to death on charges of spying for Israel.

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.

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“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.

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.

The MEA 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.

It said on Monday that seven of the men had already returned to India. No further details were given about the eighth man, the conditions of the release, or the current status of the case.

Firm allies

The arrest of the men last year made headlines in Indian and Arab media.

The eight were senior employees of Dahra Global Technologies and Consulting Services, a company advising on a Qatari programme aimed at obtaining high-tech, Italian-made, submarines that could evade radar detection. The private firm has since been shut down.

While briefly disturbing ties, the case appears unlikely to have a significant effect on relations between New Delhi and Doha, which are firm allies.

The pair continue to have extensive economic ties. Last week, they signed a deal worth tens of billions of dollars that will secure exports of Qatari liquified natural gas until the end of 2048.

Source: Al Jazeera