Eight Indian Navy veterans imprisoned in Qatar over alleged spying charges have been released, the Centre said early on Monday, 12 February.
Seven of the eight veterans are already back in India following their 18-month incarceration in Qatar.
"The Government of India welcomes the release of eight Indian nationals working for the Dahra Global company who were detained in Qatar. Seven out of the eight of them have returned to India. We appreciate the decision by the Amir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals," the Union Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The released veterans raised slogans of Bharat Mata ki Jai” as they walked out of the Delhi Airport.
The veterans had been arrested in August 2022 and given a death sentence by a Qatari court in October of the next year. The Indian government had stated that it was "shocked" by the verdict and would explore all legal options possible to get the men freed.
Following the Centre's intervention, the death sentence was commuted in December last year.
'Delighted' Veterans Express Gratitude to PM Modi
When asked how he was feeling to be back in India, one of the Navy veterans said that he was "relieved" and "delighted". He also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Centre's efforts to have them released.
"I wish to thank Prime Minister Modi as this wouldn't have been possible had it not been for his personal intervention to secure our release. I also wish to express my gratitude to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar," he told news agency ANI.
Another veteran said, "We, as well as our anxious family members back home, had been waiting for this day for a long time. It all worked out because of PM Modi and his personal intervention in the matter. He took up our case with the highest levels of the Qatari government and eventually secured our release. I don't have enough words to express my gratitude to him and the Emir of Qatar.”