DUMBARTON MAN in Indian jail sends handwritten plea to new PM Truss

jagtar singh johal

Jagtar Singh Johal, from Dumbarton, is being held under India’s anti-terror law.

By Katie Hunter & Calum McKay
BBC Scotland reporters

A Dumbarton Sikh man imprisoned in India has written a message to the new prime minister Liz Truss.

He urged her to show “more guts” on his detention than her predecessors.

Jagtar Singh Johal, who is accused of conspiracy to murder and being part of a terrorist gang, has been detained for almost five years without trial.

The handwritten note was released by human rights organisation Reprieve, but the the BBC has not been able to independently verify it.

The UK government had previously said it has consistently raised his case with the government of India.

The BBC has approached the UK government for a comment on the note.

Mr Johal’s personal message congratulates Liz Truss on her appointment as prime minister.

He goes onto to write that he hopes his “freedom will not be traded in return” for increased business links between the UK and India, and also raises the case of another British man held in the same Delhi prison.

“I hope you show more guts than your predecessors when it comes to addressing the issue of UK citizens languishing in Indian prisons for years without trial,” Mr Johal writes.

He also describes his case as “highly politically motivated” and urges the new prime minister to “make a stand and act” to secure his release.

“Otherwise,” the note continues, “as is evident with cases of Sikh political prisoners and minorities in India, decades can pass waiting for justice.”

Mr Johal, whose brother is a Labour member of West Dunbartonshire Council, was arrested in India’s northern Punjab region in November 2017 two weeks after his wedding.

He is accused by the Indian government of being part of a terrorist plot which carried out the murders of prominent right-wing religious figures in Spring 2017.

Jagtar got married in India in 2017
Mr Johal got married in India in 2017

His family say he has been targeted because of his political activism in documenting the persecution of Sikhs in the Punjab in 1984.

In a previous handwritten note, he said he was beaten and tortured in the early days of his detention, before being forced to sign a blank confession statement.

These claims are denied by the Indian authorities.

Earlier this year, the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said Mr Johal should be released immediately.

The panel of experts said his detention was arbitrary, lacked legal basis and was also motivated by his Sikh faith.

The 35-year-old from Oxhill appeared for a further preliminary hearing in court in Delhi this morning – one of more than 100 in his case – but the case was adjourned to a further date.

Last month, the BBC revealed that Mr Johal is suing the UK government after Reprieve alleged British intelligence services passed information to their Indian counterparts which resulted in his detention and, they say, his torture by Punjab police.

Liz Truss met Mr Johal’s brother, Gurpreet Singh Johal and his MP Martin Docherty-Hughes earlier this year when she was foreign secretary.

Picture: Gurpreet Johal with Scottish Labour leader Amar Sanwar and Dumbarton West Councillor David McBride.

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