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Qatar frees 8 retired Indian navy officers whose death sentences over alleged spying were commuted

A billboard with a photograph of Qatar's Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and the flags of several countries including India is displayed at Souk Waqif in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. Qatar has freed eight retired Indian navy officers who had been given death sentences for alleged spying that were commuted last year, India's Foreign Ministry said on Monday. (APPhoto/Aijaz Rahi)

A billboard with a photograph of Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and the flags of several countries including India is displayed at Souk Waqif in Doha, Qatar, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. Qatar has freed eight retired Indian navy officers who had been given death sentences for alleged spying that were commuted last year, India’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday. (APPhoto/Aijaz Rahi)

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NEW DELHI (ֱ) — Qatar has freed eight retired Indian navy officers whose death sentences for alleged spying were commuted last year, India’s Foreign Ministry said Monday.

The eight men were accused of spying while working at Al Dahra, a consulting company in the oil-rich Gulf state that advises the Qatari government on submarine acquisitions. They were imprisoned in 2022 and handed death sentences in October that were reduced to prison sentences after India said it was exploring legal options and filed an appeal.

“We appreciate the decision by the Amir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and homecoming of these nationals,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that seven of the men had returned to India.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said the two governments were working on the return of the eighth retired officer.

The news came after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai in December. It was unclear whether the two leaders discussed the case.

Millions of Indians live and work in the Gulf, a large number of them as semi-skilled or unskilled workers. They constitute an important source of income for India and contribute to the success of Gulf economies.