External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday said he met the families of the eight former Indian Navy officers who have been sentenced to death by a court in Qatar.

The veterans, arrested by the Gulf nation in August 2022, were given the punishment on Thursday on charges that have not been made public. After their conviction, the Ministry of External Affairs expressed shock and said that New Delhi “will take up the verdict” with Doha.

On Monday, Jaishankar said that he told the families that the Indian government attaches the highest importance to the case.

“Fully share the concerns and pain of the families,” he wrote in a social media post. “Underlined that the government will continue to make all efforts to secure their release. Will coordinate closely with the families in that regard.”

The former officers have been identified as 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 worked for a private company Al Dahra, which reportedly provides training to the Qatari Navy.

Some news reports had initially suggested that the veterans were detained on suspicion of spying for Israel. However, the Hindustan Times, in November, quoted unidentified Indian officials as having rejected the speculation.

In its statement on Thursday, the Ministry of External Affairs described the legal proceedings as “confidential” and that it was awaiting the details of the judgement.

The ministry also said that it was in touch with the families and the legal team. “We attach high importance to this case and have been following it closely,” its statement read. “We will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance.”

The Indian embassy in Doha reportedly first learnt about the navy veterans’ 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.

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