New Delhi, Apr 6 (IANS): India said on Thursday that the legal process for eight former Indian Navy personnel, who have been held in solitary confinement in Qatar on unspecified charges since last August, has started.
The eight men were working at Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, a private company owned by an ex-Oman Air Force officer.
"We understand that the case has been referred to the court by the public prosecution. The first hearing was held on March 29, which was also attended by the lawyer appointed for the case," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at his weekly media briefing.
India has maintained that it attaches "high priority" to secure early release of its men, and is making continuous efforts to ensure their early return and repatriation.
"Our embassy in Doha continues to remain in touch with the families of the detained Indian nationals... extending consular as well as legal assistance," Bagchi said.
India has been given consular access to the eight men on a couple of occasions, and some of their relatives were allowed to meet them.
"We've also requested another round of consular access. And let me reiterate, as I said before, the government attaches high priority to the matter and remains engaged with the Qatari authorities regarding the case," the spokesperson said.
The Qatari authorities have not yet publicly made any charges against the Indians.
"I don't think the charges have been yet opened... let's see now that the legal process is underway, we'll keep a close watch on that," Bagchi told media persons.
Among the eight Indians in custody is Commander Purnendu Tiwari (retd), the Managing Director of the Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services.
The other detained officers are Commanders Navtej Singh Gill, Director, Naval Training, Birendra Kumar Verma, Director of the Naval Academy, Sugunakar Pakala, director, FCN, Sanjeev Gupta, and Amit Nagpal, Captain Saurab Vasisht, and Ragesh Gopakumar.
More than 8,000 Indians are currently imprisoned in foreign jails and out of these, 4,389 are lodged in the Gulf nations, according to Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan.
Qatar is among the 31 countries with which India has signed the Agreements on Transfer of Sentenced Persons.