Brother of Scot detained in India meets with foreign secretary Liz Truss

The brother of Jagtar Singh Johal, the Scot who has been detained in India for nearly five years without even standing trial, has met with foreign secretary Liz Truss to discuss his plight.

In a significant development in the long-running case, Gurpreet Singh Johal said Ms Truss told him she would raise his brother’s case at “the highest level at every opportunity,” but stressed he would await to see what action follows their meeting. “I guess now we’ll see if her actions match her words,” he said.

Jagtar’s MP, the SNP’s Martin Docherty-Hughes, who was also at the meeting, described it as “productive” and said Ms Truss listened “intently” to what they had to say.

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Jagtar, a 35 year-old from Dumbarton, was snatched from the street by plain-clothes officers while shopping with his wife in India’s Punjab region in November 2017.

In the time since, he claims to have been beaten and tortured by police, alleging officers attached electrodes to his ear, nipples and genitals, and threatened to burn him alive.

The Scot and his family say he was subjected to a coerced confession before being confronted with an array of further charges. He is principally accused of funding the purchase of weapons used to assassinate Hindu leaders – allegations he has repeatedly denied.

Despite there being at least 183 pre-trial hearings in his case, he has yet to stand trial and remains in prison in Delhi.

Last month, the United Nations working group on arbitrary detention said there was no legal basis for Mr Johal’s continued detention. Its report identified multiple violations of his human rights, and states he was targeted because of his activities as a Sikh practitioner.

SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes attended the meeting with foreign secretary Liz Truss.

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Gurpreet, a human rights solicitor who was elected as a councillor in West Dunbartonshire last month, said: “I am grateful to the foreign secretary for meeting me. She knows how high the stakes are – that my brother faces a death sentence – and said she will raise his case at the highest level at every opportunity. I stressed how urgent it is and she seemed to get it.”

Gurpreet said even though his brother had another hearing on Thursday, it ended in a delay, like all the others. “The prosecution still hasn’t presented any real evidence linking him to this supposed conspiracy,” he said. “It’s been this way for almost five years and the UK Government hasn’t demanded his release.”

Mr Docherty-Hughes, who has spent years campaigning for Jagtar’s release, said: “The foreign secretary listened intently to what we had to say. The Republic of India has a respected and independent legal system, which has been the basis of a strong democracy, and we must hope that they take the findings of the UN working group very seriously.

Jagtar Singh Johal has been detained in India since November 2017.

“We hope that Jagtar will be able to meet his wife and family again for the first time in so long at home in Dumbarton.”

Maya Foa, director of human rights charity Reprieve, said the meeting was a "welcome sign of progress”, but added: “Almost five years after Jagtar was snatched off the street and tortured by Indian police, what’s needed is swift, decisive action to bring him home.

“Will Liz Truss seek Jagtar’s immediate release? Or will she fail him as her predecessors have?”

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