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Qatar releases 8 ex-navy Indians detained on spy charges

Indian and Qatari diplomatic ties came under strain when the eight Indian nationals were sentenced to death in October 2023

Indian and Qatari diplomatic ties came under strain when the eight Indian nationals were sentenced to death in October 2023

Qatar has released eight Indian former naval officers, months after dropping their death sentences, India's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Arrested over 18 months ago, the men were reportedly charged with spying for Israel. Although neither Indian nor Qatari governments confirmed these charges.

They were working for the Dahra Global company at the time of the arrest, which provided training and other services to Qatar's armed forces. The controversy ensuing the arrest of the Indian nationals led to the shutdown of the company's Doha branch in May 2023.

In October 2023, Qatar sentenced the Indian nationals to death, straining diplomatic ties between the two nations. In December however, the punishment was dropped.

"Seven out of the eight of them have returned to India," India's Foreign Ministry said in a press release on its website. "We appreciate the decision by the Amir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals."

Diplomatic efforts

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai in December to discuss the "well-being of the Indian community in Qatar."

Some of the newly freed men who returned to India, told news agency ANI that they credited Modi for their release. "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," ANI quoted one of the men without naming him.

Indian newspaper The Hindu reported that the men were accused of spying for a "third country," while The Times of India said "various reports claimed they were accused of spying for Israel."

Indians are among the largest group of expatriate workers in Qatar, with over 800,000 nationals currently working and living there.

mk/rc (Reuters, AFP)