Boris Johnson urged to used meeting with India PM to secure release of Scot

Campaigners fighting for the release of Jagtar Singh Johal, who has been detained in India for four years and now faces a possible death sentence, are demanding Boris Johnson use his meeting with the Indian Prime Minister to secure his return to Scotland.

A protest to release Jagtar Singh Johal was held outside the Indian Consulate on London in 2018.
A protest to release Jagtar Singh Johal was held outside the Indian Consulate on London in 2018.

The legal campaign organisation Reprieve, has written to the Prime Minister ahead of his virtual meeting with Nahrendra Modi, after a planned visit to India was cancelled, asking him to ensure Mr Johal is released.

Maya Foa, joint executive director of the NGO, said Mr Johal, who was imprisoned on a murder charge, is a Sikh human rights advocate from Dumbarton, who has “sought to use his platform to raise awareness of historic abuses carried out against the Sikh population” and that he has been routinely tortured while in prison.

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She said that the threat of a death sentence "is real” as the “death penalty landscape in India is increasingly concerning” with four men executed last year.

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In her letter to Mr Johnson she writes: “Your upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Modi is the moment to help get Jagtar home to his family.

"As your Government’s recent Integrated Review makes clear, the foremost priority for ‘Global Britain’ is “to support open societies and defend human rights.”

"The UK’s deepening ties with India must be based on shared values.

“We urge you to make clear that the protection of UK citizens – particularly where they face arbitrary detention, torture, and the death penalty – will remain your Government’s first concern in any future discussions.

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“The UK Government must act to bring this young British man home. In your upcoming meeting, you have a critical opportunity to secure the release of a young man who is unlawfully and arbitrarily detained and now facing a possible death sentence. We respectfully request that you ask Prime Minister Modi to release Jagtar

immediately.”

Jagtar Singh Johal, was 31 when he travelled to India in October 2017 to marry his fiancée, but a fortnight later was “effectively abducted” in Punjab by plain clothes officers while he was out shopping.

His lawyers say he was placed under a hood, taken to an undisclosed location and tortured for several days, before being forced to sign blank sheets of paper.

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Ms Foa’s letter adds: “Jagtar’s imprisonment clearly amounts to arbitrary detention under international law. He has now been detained for more than three years without trial. His initial arrest was unlawful, amounting to state-sanctioned abduction.”

She said it was believed Mr Johal was “targeted for his work highlighting human rights abuses against Sikh communities.”

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has already been lobbied to demand the release of Mr Johal, but Reprieve believes the FCDO has failed to implement British policy on “arbitrary detention”.

A UK government spokesperson said: “The FCDO 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.

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“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.

“Ministers continue to raise our concerns directly with the government of India, including the need for an investigation into the allegations of torture.”

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