Qatar Releases Eight Indian Navy Vets Who Had Been Sentenced to Death
Eight former Indian Navy officers who had been sentenced to death by a court in Qatar have been released after extended diplomatic engagement by the Indian government. The details of the charges were never disclosed by either government, but multiple news outlets reported that the men were suspected of spying for Israel.
"We appreciate the decision by the Amir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals," said India's foreign ministry in a statement.
On return, one of the veterans thanked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making a "personal intervention" with the Qatari authorities.
The men were working for a private firm in Qatar, and were sentenced in October. The negotiations over their fate continued for months, and in January the court commuted their death sentence to an extended prison term.
The men's release follows one day after India and Qatar signed a 20-year agreement for the sale of 7.5 million tonnes per year of LNG, Qatar's main petroleum export. It is a renewal of a landmark 25-year agreement that started in 2004, and over the intervening decades, the energy trade has brought the two nations closer together. Qatar even allowed India to cease taking contracted cargoes when prices spiked in 2015-16, without imposing the agreement's take-or-pay clause, according to Indian energy firm Petronet.