Mideast Qatar India

The Indian government announced early on Monday morning that eight former naval officers who had been given the death penalty for spying for Israel last year had been freed from Qatar.

The administration of Narendra Modi declared that it was happy that the eight soldiers had been freed and that seven of them had already returned to India. India’s ministry of external affairs said in a statement, “We appreciate the decision by the Emir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and homecoming of these nationals.”

The men were detained in solitary confinement after being captured in August 2022 while employed by Doha-based defense services provider Dahra Global. They received a death sentence in October of last year.

Months of negotiations between Indian and Qatari officials resulted in their release. In December, Qatar revoked the death sentences, but the men remained in custody.

The allegations for which the eight were found guilty have not been made public by either Qatar or India, although an individual with knowledge of the matter told the Financial Times in October that the eight had been accused of spying for Israel. The death penalty is not frequently applied in Qatar. In the Gulf state, the last execution took place in 2020.

As part of its efforts to forge deeper links with the Gulf states that are wealthy in oil, the world’s most populous nation, India, was increasing commercial contacts with the emirate at the time the detentions took place. Hundreds of thousands of Indian laborers, who make up a sizable portion of Qatar’s migrant labor force, reside there.

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After an attack on southern Israel that left more than 1,200 dead and prompted the Jewish state to declare war, Qatar took the lead in mediating negotiations to secure aid for the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip and the release of the remaining hostages kidnapped by the militant group Hamas on October 7.

Although the Modi government has developed strong ties with Israel in defense and other domains, it has refrained from criticising the Israeli assault on Gaza, which Hamas health officials claim has claimed over 28,000 lives. Instead, it has called for an end to the conflict with Hamas and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

This year, Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party will be running for a third five-year term in government in India’s national election, which is anticipated to take place in stages in April and May.