LONDON: A charity has appealed to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to secure the immediate release of a Scottish Sikh who has been held in India without trial for more than three years.
Jagtar Singh Johal, 33, was arrested on November 4, 2017 after travelling to the Punjab for his wedding, with local media linking his detention to the killing of Hindu leaders in the area. The Times and the BBC report that human rights group Reprieve has written to Raab over concerns that some of the charges against the Dumbarton man carry the death penalty.
“Reprieve is concerned that the risk of Jagtar being sentenced to death and executed is high given the politicised nature of this case,” the Times quoted Reprieve’s statement as saying. Singh Johal told the newspaper and the BBC that he had signed a blank confession after being tortured.
“They made me sign blank pieces of paper and asked me to say certain lines in front of a camera under fear of extreme torture,” he said via his lawyer. He also repeated allegations of torture and mistreatment by Indian authorities. SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has previously raised the case in the House of Commons and arranged for Raab’s predecessor, Jeremy Hunt, to meet his constituent’s family.
“Irrespective of what Jagtar’s been accused of, he is a British citizen and the Foreign Office has an obligation to ensure his rights under international law are protected,” the West Dunbartonshire MP said in March 2019.
A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “Our staff continue to support Jagtar Singh Johal following his detention in India, and are in regular contact with his family and prison officials about his health and wellbeing.
“We have consistently raised concerns about his case with the government of India, including allegations of torture and mistreatment and his right to a fair trial. There has been extensive ministerial engagement on Jagtar Singh Johal’s case. Most recently, the Foreign Secretary raised his case with Indian External Affairs Minister (Subrahmanyam) Jaishankar during his visit to India.
“Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, minister of state for South Asia and the Commonwealth, has met with Johal’s family on six occasions, most recently on January 27. We will continue to raise our concerns directly with the government of India, including the need for an investigation into the allegations of torture.”