The Navy veterans freed by Qatar after over a year in an alleged spying case have thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government for securing their release. Seven of the eight veterans, who are back in the country, walked out of the Delhi airport chanting 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'.
"We are very happy that we are back in India, safely. Definitely, we would like to thank PM Modi as this was only possible because of his personal intervention," said one of them.
"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," said another veteran.
Another veteran said they had to wait for 18 months to return to India.
"We waited almost for 18 months to be back in India. We are extremely grateful to the PM. 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 said.
The government announced their release early this morning, thanking the Amir of Qatar for enabling their homecoming.
Read | 8 Jailed Indian Navy Veterans Released By Qatar: A Timeline Of The Case
"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 Amir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals," the foreign ministry said.
The veterans did not have prior information of their release and were taken away by embassy officials shortly after they were freed, sources told NDTV. They boarded an IndiGo flight yesterday and returned after 2 am, they added.
Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal, and Sailor Ragesh were arrested in August 2022.
They were employed by a private firm, Dahra Global, and were in Qatar to assist with the introduction of Italian U212 stealth submarines into the Qatari Emiri Naval Force in their personal roles.
A Qatari court sentenced them to death on October 26, 2023. India had said it was "deeply shocked" by the verdict and that it was exploring all legal options.
The capital punishment was commuted in December, weeks after PM Modi met Qatar's Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai.