A Qatari court has given 60 days to the eight former Indian Navy officers to appeal against the prison terms handed to them, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

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 Centre said on December 28 that Qatar’s Court of Appeal has commuted the death sentence given to the veterans. It stated, however, that a detailed judgement was awaited.

Responding to a question about the details of the judgment, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said that while the order is confidential, he can confirm that the “death penalty has now been converted into varying prison sentences”.

“On the next steps, we are in touch with the family members,” said Jaiswal. “We are also in touch with the legal team. The court has given 60 days for the appeal to be made before the Court of Cassation, which is the highest court in Qatar, and it is for the legal team now to decide the next course of action.”

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.

The former officers 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.

They worked for a private company called Al Dahra, which reportedly provides training to the Qatari Navy.

Some news reports had initially suggested that they were detained on suspicion of spying for Israel. However, the Hindustan Times in November 2022 quoted unidentified Indian officials as having rejected the speculation.

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.