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MP for West Dunbartonshire Martin Docherty-Hughes met this week with UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to raise the case of detained Dumbarton man Jagtar Singh Johal.

Local MP Martin was joined by Jagtar’s brother Gurpreet Singh Johal in pressing the UK Foreign Secretary to act over the 5-year imprisonment in India of the 35-year-old Scot known as ‘Jaggi’.

It follows a debate in parliament last month led by SNP MP Docherty-Hughes, in which MPs called on the UK government to press for Mr Johal’s release – arguing that the legal case around his arbitrary detention is now beyond doubt.

Mr Johal was detained under India’s anti-terrorism laws following his arrest in November 2017, accused of helping fund a Sikh-on-Hindu assassination plot – something he strongly denies.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has determined that Mr Johal’s detention “lacks legal basis”, was based on “discriminatory grounds” owing to his Sikh faith and his “status as a human rights defender”, and that he was “subjected to torture”.

International human rights groups ‘Reprieve’ and ‘Redress’ have called on the UK government to intervene urgently in the case, citing concerns that Jagtar faces trumped-up political charges carrying the death penalty.

Martin Docherty Hughes MP said:

“I appreciated the Foreign Secretary taking the time, allowing myself and Gurpreet the opportunity to put our case robustly and clearly.

“However, I’m disappointed to say that despite listening to compelling evidence, built on the unambiguous findings of the UN working group, we are no closer to having the UK Government call for Jagtar’s release.

“After 5 years, with Jagtar being tortured into making a false confession, and the now unavoidable evidence of arbitrary detention, the UK Government cannot move on from the softly softly approach which shows no sign of yielding results – and so Jagtar will continue to sit an Indian jail, unable to get on with his married life.”

Jagtar’s brother Gurpreet said:

“I’m grateful to the Foreign Secretary for meeting us but so disappointed in what he had to say. He talks about ‘Jagtar’s best interests’ but won’t seek his release – and won’t even acknowledge that there is no legal basis for his imprisonment.

“It is a slap in the face to hear him talk about the Indian justice system and what the UK Government can do to ensure that Jagtar receives a fair trial. Jagtar has been in prison for five years already based on a ‘confession’ he signed after being tortured, and his trial on these trumped-up charges has barely begun.

“As I told Mr Cleverly, trials brought by India’s National Investigations Agency can drag on for decades. What we need from the Foreign Secretary is decisive action; what we got is more empty words.”

Dan Dolan, Director of Reprieve, said:

“By failing to seek Jagtar’s release, the UK Government is effectively condemning him to indefinite arbitrary detention in India.

“It looks awfully like the Foreign Secretary is prioritising narrow political considerations over the life of a young British man facing a death sentence overseas for blogging about human rights abuses.”

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