Cross party MPs urge Rishi Sunak to take action and facilitate the release of Scottish man Jagtar Singh Johal
By News Desk
A cross party group of MPs is urging the Prime Minister to intervene in the case of a Scottish man who faces death penalty in India.
36-year-old Jagtar Singh Johal has been held in prison in India for over five years and is said to have been “arbitrarily detained” by the UK government several times. He was arrested in Punjab where he was travelling for his wedding in 2017.
According to the BBC, more than 70 MPs have signed a letter asking Rishi Sunak to call on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “immediately release” Johal, when he travels to Delhi for the G20 leaders’ summit.
It is reported that the Dumbarton man was a campaigner and blogger for Sikh human rights, due to which he attracted attention of the Indian authorities.
The PM’s spokesperson has not confirmed whether the issue will be raised or not.
Tory MP David Davis told the BBC that “the first duty of a state should be to prevent a citizen getting harmed”, and if a citizen had been mistreated, “the government should be raising the most serious protests”.
He added: “That does not seem to be happening at the moment and that is a failure of the Foreign Office to do its most fundamental duty.”
In their letter, the MPs describe the torture Johal had to endure, saying that “upon his arrest, Jagtar’s interrogators electrocuted him, and threatened to douse him in petrol and set him alight. To make the torture stop, Jagtar recorded video statements and signed blank pieces of paper.”
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said he was jailed “because of his activism writing public posts calling for accountability for alleged actions committed against Sikhs by the authorities”.
Dabinderjit Singh, the Principal Adviser of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: “Rishi Sunak has an opportunity and must show the courage as the UK PM when he visits India to stand up for a British citizen who has been in arbitrary detention for nearly 6 years.
“The British public and politicians are watching Rishi Sunak closely as the last thing he should be doing is appeasing India and discriminating against Jagtar Singh Johal because he is a Sikh activist.
“If Rishi Sunak misses this opportunity in Delhi at the G20 Summit he will stand accused of being nothing more than a lame duck PM who is more interested in pleasing Narendra Modi and furthering his personal family and financial ties before he is removed as PM.”
After almost six years, Johal continues to be incarcerated in India. He is faced with ten charges against him related to murder and conspiracy to commit murder, all connected to political violence in India.
His brother Gurpreet Singh Johal, a lawyer and Labour councillor in Dumbarton, told the BBC: “The fear for the family is that false allegations have become false charges, which could become a false conviction and result in the death penalty.”
He added that former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Theresa May had discussed the case with PM Modi and “it would be very difficult for Rishi Sunak not to raise the case… if Rishi Sunak doesn’t, the question will be ‘why didn’t you?’”.
He added: “Given Rishi Sunak has a good relationship with the Indian Prime Minister it shouldn’t be a hard ask. Almost six years have elapsed, no evidence has been produced against Jagtar. These are just charges alleged against him, and it should be innocent until proven guilty.”
“It should be very easy to call for Jagtar’s release. The UK did it, rightfully so for Nazanin [Zagari-Ratcliffe] and Anousheh [Ashouri] in Iran previously,” he continued.