The Indian government has said it is working to secure the release of the men

New Delhi: The families of eight former Indian Navy personnel who have been sentenced to death in Qatar have categorically denied that the men had anything to do with espionage and pointed out that there has been no "proof of allegations" from the country.

The veterans, who were arrested last year, are Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Amit Nagpal, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta and Sailor Ragesh Gopakumar. They worked for a private firm, Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, which provided training and other services for Qatar's armed forces.

While the details of the October 26 verdict against the eight men by the Court of First Instance in Qatar are still not clear, reports have suggested that they had been convicted of spying for Israel on a submarine project. In a statement, the families of the seven former officers and one sailor have denied all the allegations.

"The eight ex-Indian Naval officers were not engaged in espionage for Israel. They went to build the Qatari navy and build that nation's security. They could never spy. There are no allegations or proof of allegations from Qatar," the statement said, adding that none of them were associated with any submarine program when working at Dahra Global.

Some of the men were decorated officers and had commanded warships during their time at the Indian Navy. Pointing to their impeccable record, the statement added, "All the men have had distinguished service with full integrity and represented the nation with high honour while serving in the Indian Navy.''

The eight men were arrested in August 2022 and have been in custody for the most part as their bail applications had been rejected several times. The government, which had said it was "deeply shocked" by the verdict, has been working with the Qatar government to free the former Navy personnel.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met the families of the men on Monday and said that he shares their pain and concern. In a post on Twitter, the foreign minister had said, "Met this morning with the families of the 8 Indians detained in Qatar. Stressed that Government attaches the highest importance to the case. Fully share the concerns and pain of the families. Underlined that Government will continue to make all efforts to secure their release. Will coordinate closely with the families in that regard."

On the same day, Navy Chief Admiral Hari Kumar had also said that the Centre was making every effort to secure the release of the Navy veterans.