Rishi Sunak raising the case of detained Scot Jagtar Singh Johal is “meaningless” if he did not call on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to release the Sikh blogger immediately, campaigners say.
The British Prime Minister confirmed he brought up Mr Johal’s case when he met the leader of India on the fringes of the G20 summit in New Delhi.
Legal charity Reprieve said the UK Government should declare what Modi’s response was to Sunak’s intervention regarding its client’s six-year detention.
The UK Sikh Federation said Sunak and the Foreign Office appeared “scared and clueless on how best to apply diplomatic pressure” over Mr Johal’s treatment at the hands of the “corrupt Indian judicial system”.
Mr Johal, from Dumbarton in Scotland, was in Punjab in northern India for his wedding in 2017 when his family said he was arrested and bundled into an unmarked car.
He said he has been tortured with methods including electric shocks, and faces the death penalty over his activism and campaigning for Sikh human rights.
According to The Guardian, Mr Johal faces terrorism charges and the first stages of his trial have started following repeated delays caused by disputes over evidence.
The Prime Minister, asked on Saturday by broadcasters whether he had spoken with the Indian premier about Mr Johal, said: “Yes, I was able to, alongside a range of other consular issues that prime minister Modi and I discussed in the time that we had.
“And also the Foreign Office are continuing to provide support to Mr Johal’s family and will continue to do so.”
It comes after a cross-party group of at least 70 MPs wrote to Sunak last week ahead of his trip to India calling on him to use his bilateral meeting with Modi to press the Hindu nationalist leader to “immediately release” Mr Johal.
The letter followed BBC reporting that Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had written to Mr Johal’s brother in July to say the Government had decided it was best not to press India over the imprisonment.
On his flight from London to the Indian capital, Sunak told reporters he wanted to ensure “justice is done appropriately” for the jailed Scot.
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, said: “Theresa May ‘raised’ Jagtar’s case. So did Boris Johnson.
“But six years after his abduction and torture he’s still in prison, facing a possible death sentence for something he didn’t do.
“The Government often says ministers have raised the case a hundred times, as if that makes their failure to seek the release of an arbitrarily detained British national any less shameful.
“What did Rishi Sunak say to Narendra Modi about the case and how did he respond? Without answers to these questions, the Prime Minister’s talk is meaningless.”
Dabinderjit Singh, the principal adviser to the Sikh Federation, said Sunak had appeared “very reluctant” to press the Scot’s case since entering No 10 almost a year ago until being “forced through pressure” from MPs to do so.
He continued: “He has however demonstrated his weakness and lack of leadership by shamefully falling to stand up for the rights of a British citizen and calling for Jagtar’s immediate release.
“Rishi Sunak and his Foreign Office ministers are now talking utter nonsense in terms of Jagtar’s best interests and justice.
“They appear scared and clueless on how best to apply diplomatic pressure on India and are leaving it to the corrupt Indian judicial system.”