Scot detained in India urges Prime Minister to secure his release

Jagtar Singh Johal was arrested by police officers after his wedding in Punjab almost five years ago.

Scottish man Jagtar Singh Johal detained in India writes to new Prime Minister Liz Truss to secure his release Reprieve

A Scottish Sikh detained in India without trial has written a note to the new Prime Minister, urging her to make a stand against his imprisonment.

Jagtar Singh Johal, from Dumbarton, was arrested by police officers after his wedding in Punjab almost five years ago accused of conspiracy to murder and being part of a terrorist gang.

Mr Johal’s handwritten note was released by human rights organisation Reprieve.

He writes to congratulate the new Prime Minister Liz Truss on her appointment and urges her to “show more guts” than her predecessors “when it comes to addressing the issue of UK citizens languishing in Indian prisons for years without trial”.

He cited an article which highlighted Truss’s achievements as foreign minister, which included securing the release of two UK citizens from Iranian prisons.

Mr Johal added: “I hope during your visit to India…you do not overlook the fact that two UK citizens are being held in Tihar jail in separate but highly political motivated cases.”

He went on to say that the UK Government must “make a stand and act” to secure his release.

It is thought the 35-year-old’s blogs and campaigning for Sikh human rights brought him to the attention of the authorities in India.

In August, the UK’s intelligence agencies were accused of providing a tip-off that led to Mr Johal’s detention and torture.

Reprieve has previously shown STV News documentation it says is evidence that the British spy agencies, MI5 and MI6, may have contributed to his detention and torture by sharing intelligence with the Indian authorities.

The group of international lawyers and investigators said it has matched multiple details in Mr Johal’s case to that of a case study reported by the secret services watchdog, however a foreign office minister has refused to comment on claims MI5 and MI6 supplied information which led to his abduction.

Lawyers for Mr Johal, have lodged a complaint after human rights group Reprieve identified his case among anonymised details published in the annual report by the UK’s investigatory powers commissioner.

Minister Rehman Chishti, replying to an urgent question in the Commons, said: “The first priority of the Government is the welfare of Mr Johal.”

He said: “With regards to any civil litigation with regards to concerns on the intelligence agencies, I cannot and will not comment in this House on that.”

He added: “We must let the legal process take its course and I will therefore not comment on this matter in line with long-established practice.”

West Dunbartonshire SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes earlier said: “My constituent has now had his 188th pre-trial hearing suspended today because the courts in India couldn’t make their mind up.”

He added: “Lawyers representing my constituent submitted a motion at the Royal Courts of Justice seeking redress after compelling evidence emerged linking the United Kingdom Government directly to his arrest and torture almost five years ago.”

Docherty-Hughes said the information has “posed a multitude of hard questions” for the UK Government and new Prime Minister Liz Truss given she was formerly foreign secretary.

He said: “Like hundreds of thousands of UK citizens of Sikh ethnicity, the Singh Johal family travel to India every year yet now they must wonder if it’s safe for them to continue to do so.”

Docherty-Hughes suggested the difficulties experienced by Mr Johal have been “caused directly, at least for me, by the intervention of the state which is meant to protect him”.

He went on: “We have a family, an MP and a House of Commons who want answers on who knew what and when.”

Labour shadow foreign office minister Catherine West called on the government to put some “backbone” in the negotiations with India.

She said: “The allegations in recent weeks of the potential collusion of the British intelligence service in the arbitrary detention of Mr Johal are deeply worrying. It’s vitally important that the veracity of these claims be investigated as soon as possible to find the truth.

“The House will expect the minister to be clear on whether the former prime minister (Boris Johnson), under whose watch this occurred, we believe, authorised sharing this intelligence with the Indian government when he was the foreign secretary.”

Ms West added: “It is a worrying pattern that throughout the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office there are other cases, for example Morad Tahbaz, remaining languishing in an Iranian prison, or we have the case of Alaa Abd El Fattah in Egypt for liking a Facebook page.

“What urgent action is the FCDO taking on these cases?”

Returning to the case of Mr Johal, she said: “The family have said today, will the new Prime Minister show ‘more guts’ than her predecessor, and I think everyone in this House would like to see some backbone injected into these negotiations.”

Chishti, responding to Labour’s question of any involvement by Boris Johnson, said: “I think it’s absolutely important when such an accusation is made that it is fully, thoroughly investigated and looked at. And that will be done by the High Court.”

Conservative former minister David Davis called on the Government to review its attitude to torture and its complicity in the practice.

He said: “The allegation is that the British government was complicity in provision of information to the Indian government, knowing that it might be used for torture and in a capital case.

“The point here is that this is not the first time this has happened. On numerous occasions this has happened.

“This isn’t only one civil case looking at this, there’s another one in the name (Labour MP Dan Jarvis) demanding that the Government reviews, as was promised, its attitude to torture and its complicity and involvement with it.”

He asked the minister to commit that “we will now have that review, covering the Johal case and all the others that went before it, and promising to this House we will never again be complicit in the torture of any British citizen”.

Chishti replied: “There are allegations in this case … and there is a procedure and process that those allegations have to go through to be looked at, and they are going through the High Court at this point in time.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code