Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism from MPs in the Commons for prioritising a trade deal with India over securing the release of Dumbarton man Jagtar Singh Johal.
During an urgent parliamentary question tabled by the SNP, local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes hit out at Boris Johnson for failing to bring Jagtar home following trade talks in India with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
35 year old Jagtar – known as Jaggi – has been incarcerated without trial in India for more than 4 years. He was arrested after his wedding in November 2017, accused of helping to fund a Sikh-on-Hindu assassination plot – something he and his family strongly deny.
Speaking in parliament, Dumbarton’s MP Martin Docherty-Hughes asked: “did the Prime Minister – not civil servants, not with a note – directly challenge Prime Minister Modi on the arbitrary detention of Jagtar Singh Johal who now faces a death penalty?”
Responding for the UK government, Foreign Minister Vicky Ford gave assurances that the Prime Minister did raise Mr Johal’s case during his visit to India. The Tory leader is believed to have handed over a note on consular cases to Prime Minister Modi.
Labour MP Tan Dhesi also criticised Boris Johnson for his discourtesy in failing to update MPs personally following his visit to India, asking: “why could he not be bothered to raise at the highest level the much publicised issues of human rights of minorities and the detention of British citizens?”
The Prime Minister was also slammed by Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael, who asked: “when the Prime Minister raised the case of Jagtar Singh Johal, did he do so on the basis that for the past four years Mr Johal has been the victim of arbitrary detention?”
Tory junior Minister Vicky responded that the government deplores the use of arbitrary detention, and assured MPs that the Foreign Secretary would be meeting with the Singh Johal family and their local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes in due course.
Commenting after the statement, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:
“It’s a hammer blow for my constituents the Singh Johal family to see the Prime Minister prioritising a trade deal over the human rights of a British citizen from Dumbarton.
“The long-term consequences of this for millions of UK citizens of Indian descent are also quietly terrifying: they will be wondering today if it will be their son grabbed off the street and hooded by unidentified Indian police; whether it will be their daughter who will be tortured in prison; or whether their children can be arbitrarily detained by the Indian government with no consequences to UK-India relations.
“Instead of concentrating on getting a trade deal done by Diwali, the Prime Minister should be making sure that Jagtar Singh Johal is free by Diwali — and that he doesn’t spend a sixth year in arbitrary detention.”