The External Affairs Ministry on Thursday said that Qatar’s Court of Appeal has commuted the death sentence given to eight former Indian Navy officers.

The ministry said that a detailed judgement was awaited. The authorities are in touch with the legal team and the family members of the Navy veterans to decide the course of action.

On October 26, a Qatari court of first instance sentenced the Indian veterans to death on charges that have never been made public.

The Indian government had filed an appeal in the higher court against the death sentence.

The eight Indian veterans had been arrested by Qatar’s intelligence service from Doha in August 2022 and have been held in solitary confinement since. 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 rejecting the speculation.

The former officers were working for the private company Al Dahra which reportedly provides training to the Qatari Navy. They were 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.

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

The retired officers’ families had sought the Indian government’s help in securing their release and repatriation.

“Our ambassador to Qatar and other officials were present in the Court of Appeal today, along with the family members,” the ministry said in its statement on Thursday. “We have stood by them since the beginning of the matter and we will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance. We will also continue to take up the matter with the Qatari authorities.”

The ministry added that it would not provide further comments considering the confidential and sensitive nature of the legal proceedings.