The UK government has been urged to step-up efforts to secure the release of a young Scot imprisoned in India for more than three years over fears he may be facing the death penalty.
33-year-old Jagtar Singh Johal from Dumbarton, known as ‘Jaggi’, has been detained without trial in India since 4 November 2017 after travelling to the Punjab for his wedding.
The Sikh activist is facing charges which carry a possible death sentence, following accusations by the Indian authorities that he was involved in a plot to destabilise the Punjab region by assassinating Hindu leaders.
Jagtar’s family in Dumbarton maintain he is innocent, and suggest Jaggi is being held as a political prisoner because he sought to draw attention to human rights abuses against India’s Sikh population in an online blog.
No evidence against Jaggi has been brought forward, apart from a video-taped ‘confession’ which his legal team say he was forced into after being severely tortured over a number of days during his early detention.
International human rights charities including Reprieve and Redress have expressed concerns about Jagtar’s torture and mistreatment in India. They say the circumstances of his arrest and imprisonment for three years without trial or bail amounts to an arbitrary detention.
The UK Foreign Secretary has been accused by the family’s MP Martin Docherty-Hughes of turning a blind eye to Jagtar’s plight, despite a cross-party group of MPs calling on Dominic Raab to intervene.
The MP for West Dunbartonshire Docherty-Hughes, who has previously raised the case with both the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, will be tabling an urgent question in parliament calling on the UK government to lobby for the release of British national Jagtar Singh Johal.
Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:
“I’d urge the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to reflect on the anguish they would feel if it were their son or brother facing death penalty charges after being tortured and held in arbitrary detention abroad for more than three years.
“Jagtar’s family here in Scotland maintain his innocence and they feel badly let down by the UK government.
“A cross-party group of MPs have repeatedly raised concerns with the Foreign Secretary about Jaggi’s plight, yet Dominic Raab continues to turn a blind eye to the family’s campaign for justice.
“Despite countless court hearings, my constituent – a British Citizen – remains incarcerated in an Indian prison without conviction nor any credible evidence presented against him.
“I will continue doing all I can as the family’s MP to press this UK government to safeguard Jagtar’s human rights and speak up for fairness, justice and due process.”
International Legal Adviser at Redress, Charlie Loudon, said:
“Time is running out. Every day that Jagtar is in prison he is at risk of further torture. And we now have the additional threat of a death sentence. The UK Government promised ‘extreme action’ on Jagtar’s case. It’s time to make good on that commitment by calling for his release.”
Reprieve Deputy Director Dan Dolan said:
“We are talking about a young British man facing a death sentence on trumped up political charges. It’s just not good enough for the FCDO to make generic requests for due process. Action from the British Government could save Jagtar’s life and bring him home to his family. Why won’t they call for his release?”