West Dunbartonshire’s MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has led a debate in the House of Commons (30 June 2021) calling on the UK government to intervene over the arbitrary detention in India of his constituent Jagtar Singh Johal.
34 year old Jagtar 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 almost four 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.
Martin has raised the case of Jagtar Singh Johal with Ministers almost 20 times since first raising a Point of Order in Parliament on 15 November 2017.
Speaking during the debate, which included contributions from a cross-party group of MPs, Martin said:
“Jagtar has now been detained for 1,335 days without any substantial charges being brought in the case—that is coming up to four years. We know that the FCDO had been looking at a designation of arbitrary detention and, from conversations with Ministers of all levels, we know that they have been thinking about this for some time.
“In January, we were glad of the estimation made by the charity Redress that Jagtar’s detention was an arbitrary one, and even more so when a cross-party group of 140 MPs signed a letter to the Foreign Secretary asking him to ensure that the FCDO intervenes to secure Jagtar’s release, as he himself is on record restating the policy quite recently.”
“Three prime ministers, four foreign secretaries and so many under-secretaries I have lost count… what will it take for the UK government to answer the question, is this or is this not arbitrary detention?
“Jagtar Singh Johal is a husband, a son, a grandson, a brother, an uncle, and a son of the Rock of Dumbarton. He is arbitrarily detained in India. Why can the United Kingdom Government not recognise that? Let us get Jaggi released: let us bring him back to Scotland and let him see his family.”
Watch the Westminster Hall debate in full here: https://tinyurl.com/vc3kwvab
Read the Hansard transcript of the debate here: https://tinyurl.com/cx4ktm69