Qatar has released eight former Indian Navy personnel who were detained in the Gulf country on alleged espionage charges, in a development welcomed by India. New Delhi said seven of the eight Indian nationals had returned home

In a major diplomatic victory for India, Qatar has released eight former Indian Navy personnel who were detained in the Gulf country in an alleged case of espionage.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), in a statement released early on Monday, welcomed the development and said seven of the eight former Indian Navy personnel working for the Al Dahra Global Company, a private firm, returned to India from 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 Emir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and homecoming of these nationals,” the MEA said in a statement.

In December last year, a Qatari court reversed the death penalty of the eight Indian Navy veterans who were arrested in the Al Dahra Global case. The death sentence was reduced to jail terms.

The development came after Qatar’s Court of First Instance accepted an appeal filed by the Indian government against the death sentence awarded to the Navy veterans.

The eight Indian Navy officials who were detained in Qatar are — Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, and Sailor Ragesh.

The Indian Navy veterans returned to Delhi and thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his intervention in the issue.

“It wouldn’t have been possible for us to stand here without the intervention of PM Modi. And it also happened due to the continuous efforts of the Government of India,” one of the Navy veterans said.

His colleague voiced similar sentiments and said, “We waited almost for 18 months to be back in India. We are extremely grateful to the Prime Minister. It wouldn’t have been possible without his personal intervention and his equation with Qatar.”

“We are grateful to the Government of India from the bottom of our hearts for every effort that has been made and this day won’t have been possible without those efforts,” he added.