India Hails Qatar’s Release of Eight Ex-Marines Accused of Spying

Release of Eight Ex-Marines

New Delhi: In a major diplomatic victory, India secured the release of eight former marines who were detained in Qatar on charges of espionage and initially sentenced to death. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) expressed its gratitude to the Amir of Qatar for his decision to free the Indian nationals, who were working for a private defense company in Doha. Seven of the eight ex-marines have already returned to India, while one is expected to join them soon.

The eight Indian nationals, who had served in the Indian Navy with distinction, were arrested by the State Security Bureau of Qatar’s Intelligence Agency on August 30, 2022. They were employed by Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy, a company that provides training and consultancy to Qatar’s armed forces. Among their tasks was to assist in the induction of Italian U212 stealth submarines into the Qatari Emiri Naval Force.

Along with the Indian ex-marines, the head of Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy, Squadron Leader Khamis Al Ajmi, a Qatari national, was also arrested. However, he was released in November 2022.

On October 26, 2023, a Qatari court pronounced the death penalty for the eight Indian nationals on undisclosed charges of spying. The verdict shocked and outraged India, which maintained that the ex-marines were innocent and had not violated any laws of Qatar. The MEA summoned the Qatari ambassador and lodged a strong protest against the verdict. It also sought legal assistance and consular access for the detained ex-marines.

Following India’s intervention, the Qatari court commuted the death sentences to varying prison terms on December 28, 2023. The MEA continued to pursue the matter with the Qatari authorities and appealed for their release on humanitarian grounds. The families of the ex-marines also made fervent pleas for their safe return to India.

On February 12, 2024, the MEA announced that the Amir of Qatar had pardoned the eight Indian nationals and allowed them to leave the country. The MEA welcomed the decision and appreciated the gesture of goodwill by the Qatari leadership. It also thanked the legal team in Qatar for their efforts in the case.

Release of Eight Ex-Marines

The MEA said that it was awaiting the detailed judgment in the case and was closely coordinating with the legal team in Qatar. It also said that it hoped that the release of the ex-marines would strengthen the bilateral ties between India and Qatar, which have been growing steadily in recent years.

The eight ex-marines, who have returned to India after a harrowing ordeal of more than a year, are Captains Navtej Gill and Saurabh Vasisht, Commanders Purnendu Tiwari, Amit Nagpal, SK Gupta, BK Verma, Sugunakar Pakala, and sailor Ragesh. Captain Gill is a recipient of the President’s Gold Medal for excellence, while Commander Tiwari is a winner of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman in 2019.