Eight former Indian Navy officers, arrested by Qatar in August 2022, have been sentenced to death by a court in the Gulf nation, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

“We have initial information that the Court of First Instance of Qatar has today passed a judgement in the case involving eight Indian employees of Al Dahra company,” the ministry said.

It expressed shock over the Qatari court’s judgement and said that New Delhi “will take up the verdict” with Doha.

The charges against the Indian Navy veterans have not been made public.

Initially, some news reports suggested that the veterans had been detained on suspicion of spying for Israel. However, the Hindustan Times quoted unidentified Indian officials as having rejected the speculation.

The former officers were working for private company Al Dahra that reportedly provides training to the Qatari Navy. They are Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Purenendu Tiwari, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta and Sailor Ragesh.

They were detained by Qatar’s intelligence agency from Doha in August 2022 and have been held in solitary confinement since.

The Indian embassy in Doha reportedly first learnt about their detention in mid-September 2022. The Indian diplomatic mission in Doha was granted consular access to the veterans in October and December 2022. Their families were then allowed either weekly visits or phone conversations.

The retired officers’ families have been seeking the Indian government’s help in securing their release and repatriation.

“We are in touch with the family members and the legal team, and we are exploring all legal options,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday. “We attach high importance to this case and have been following it closely. We will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance.”

New Delhi added that it cannot currently comment on the case further because of the “confidential nature of [the] proceedings”.

In April, the Congress criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not intervening in the case. “MEA [the Ministry of External Affairs] says that ‘the charges have not been shared so far’, with India,” party chief Mallikarjun Kharge wrote on social media. “Modi government’s meek surrender has exposed their tall claims of making India a ‘vishwaguru’ [world leader]!”

Also read: No way home for eight Indian Navy veterans jailed by Qatar?