Eight former officers in the Indian Navy were arrested in Qatar on suspicion of spying for Israel, although Qatari officials have refused to state the charges against the suspects despite their being in custody for over 70 days, Iranian media reported on Thursday.
People familiar with the case rejected the claims that the arrests were connected to espionage, claiming that the reports were sparked by Pakistani social media users in "an attempt to muddy the waters," according to The Hindustan Times.
"Some of these social media posts even claimed the Indians were held following a tip-off from the Pakistani side, so one can clearly infer who is behind the mischief," said one of the sources to The Hindustan Times.
According to the Indian Express, the eight were working for a company called Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, which describes itself as a "local business partner" of Qatar's defense and other government agencies.
The eight were arrested on August 30 and are being held in solitary confinement, which is usually only used for security-related offenses, according to the Indian Express. The Dahra company's website and LinkedIn page have been deleted and the website has been replaced with a page reading "under maintenance."
According to the report, a high-ranking official from India was sent to Doha last month amid efforts to release the eight former officers.
Indian social media users have taken to Twitter to beg the government to intensify its efforts to have the eight officers released.
Indian government aware of arrests, working for their early release
Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for the Indian External Affairs Ministry, stated during a press briefing last week that the government is aware of the detention of eight Indian nationals.
"Our embassy there in Qatar has been in touch with Qatari authorities. Embassy officials got consular access to the detained Indian nationals and ascertain their wellbeing when they had that consular access. The detained persons have also spoken to their family members on a few occasions," said Bagchi. "Our Embassy there is making all possible efforts for the early release and repatriation of the detained Indian nationals. For the moment I will limit myself to this."