Family call for PM to intervene over detention of Scot in India

22 April 2022, 16:07

Jagtar Singh Johal has been in jail in India for four years.
Jagtar Singh Johal has been in jail in India for four years. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

Boris Johnson is coming under pressure to use his trip to India to secure the release of Scottish Sikh, Jagtar "Jaggi" Singh Johal, who has been in a Delhi jail for four years without charge.

The family of the Dumbarton man claim he has been "arbitrarily detained" in Delhi's Tihar jail, and suffered torture, after being snatched off the street by plain clothes police, just days after his wedding in October 2017.

The Indian authorities allege that the 35-year-old is inolved with a terrorist organisation, the Khalistan Liberation Front, and was involved in the planing of a series of killings of Hindu leaders - but they have yet to charge him with any crime.

Mr Johal's family, who have been campaigning for his release for years, say he was in the Punjab to get married, and while he is an activist who tries to document historical human rights abuses against Sikhs in India, he has never been involed in any terror plots or organisations.

Now, with Boris Johnson meeting India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a visit to the sub-continent, the Johals want him to secure the release of Jaggi.

Speaking to LBC, his brother Gurpreet Sing Johal said: "In essence Jaggi has been in an Indian prison for nearly four and a half years without formal charges, subjected to torture and mistreatment and the UK Government has not helped at all.

"Instead they have frustrated the family, have not provided the support and assistance that they should and my brother has been arbitrarily detained.

"The UK government has rightfully called for the release of other arbitrarily detained British nationals in other countries, who have been detained on false allegations. They have failed to do that for my brother and I feel that this is because Boris Johnson is more interested in a trade deal than protecting his citizens. "

He added: "My brother has been targeted because he was writing about the human rights violations that took place in 1984. when the Golden Temple was attacked.

"All he has done is express his freedom of expression and raising human rights issues that were taking place in India. He has not been involved in any of the things the police keep accusing him of - and they have provided no evidence to Jaggi's lawyer of to the judge. If they had the evidence there would have been a trial by now."

It is believed that Mr Johal has also been tortured by the Indian authorities, who have also accused him of another killing in October 2020, despite him being in jail and under heavy surveillance.

Gurpreet Singh Johal told LBC: "My brother has been subjected to having electrocution done to his private parts and earlobes.... so the sensitive parts.

"He was electrocuted and told he would have petrol poured over him and set alight, and even shot. This is inhumane treatment."

Those allegations, denied by the Indian poilce, have been backed by human rights organisations Reprieve.

A spokesman, Andrew Purcell said: "Jagtar's abduction and torture by Indian police happened on Boris Johnson's watch as Foreign Secretary. More than 100 MPs and peers have written to the government about this case so the Prime Minister knows full well that this young British citizen has been arbitrarily detained by the Indian authorities - for four years and counting.

"This is his chance to demand Jagtar's release and it would be political cowardice if he fails to take it."

Gurpreet Johal said his brother's wife was safe int he UK - but they had had to battle with the Home Office who had been "hellbent on removing her."

"After various successful applications and appeals, we won and the Home Office had to grant humanitarian protection in the UK," he said.

He added: "We really hope Boris will do something and call for the release of Jaggi and his return because it is UK Government policy that if you're arbitrarily detained, they can call for your return and that's exactly what Boris should be doing.

"Boris neglected my brother for four and a half years, he has a duty as a Prime Minister to protect a citizen born and bred in the UK. His human rights have been violated by his so-called friend [Modi]. Now he needs to stand up for his British national and bring him back home as a matter of urgency."

Current Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said resolving the continued detention of British nationals was one of her “top priorities” – and she would meet with the Johal family, but that has not yet happened.

An FCDO spokesperson said: “We have consistently raised our concerns about Mr Johal’s case with the Government of India, including his allegations of torture and mistreatment and his right to a fair trial.

“The Foreign Secretary raised the case personally with India’s Minister of External Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, when they recently met in New Delhi.”

Mr Johal's MP, Martin Dochety-Hughes thanked LBC for discussing the issue and said he had been raising Jagtar's detention since 2017 and supporting the family.

"Trying to work cross party has been difficult, four Prime Ministers five foreign secretary's has added a level of complexity one would not expect in trying to regain the liberty of a British national arbitrarily detained.

"Boris Johnson has been clear he will continue to raise the issue and I have to take him at his word and wait til he returns to ask him what he did raise with Prime Minister Modi. He needs to raise the subject of arbitrary detention, that is what will then allow him to demand Jagtar's release.

"My concern is that we should not shrink from telling democractic friends like India when they have fallen short on our shared values."

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