CAMPAIGN: Jagtar Singh Johal Trial date for Scot facing terrorism charges

Jagtar got married in India in 2017
Mr Singh was detained by police in the Indian state of Punjab just two weeks after his wedding in 2017

By Bill Heaney

BBC Scotland is reporting that a Dumbarton man detained in India for nearly five years will go on trial next month to face conspiracy to murder and terrorism charges.

The family of Jagtar Singh Johal, 35, claim he was abducted and tortured by police in the state of Punjab.

Successive British prime ministers have raised the case of Mr Johal, from OIxhill Road, with the Indian authorities.

The Indian government has denied he was tortured or mistreated.

At the time of detention in 2017, Mr Johal was an active blogger and campaigner for Sikh human rights, which are said to have brought him to the attention of the Indian authorities.

His family claim he was bundled into an unmarked car, mistreated in jail and forced to sign a false confession.

On Saturday Mr Johal entered not guilty to the charges presented in court in Delhi, and was told his trial was due to start on 28 November.

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Human rights campaigners have argued there is no basis for the charges, and warned his life is at risk.

Maya Foa, of campaign group Reprieve, said: “Liz Truss failed to call for Jagtar’s release as foreign secretary and she’s failing him as prime minister.

“UN legal experts have recognised that his detention is arbitrary and he should immediately be set free.

“The UK government needs to act fast as these trumped-up charges against Jagtar carry the death penalty”

Gurpreet Singh Johal
Gurpreet Singh Johal has criticised the UK government’s response to his brother’s case.

Mr Johal’s brother, Gurpreet, a Labour councillor in West Dunbartonshire, told BBC Scotland: “I’ve said from day one that my brother is innocent, it has taken 1,807 days for Jagtar to know what charges he faces and today he has plead not guilty.

“The prosecutors have had five years to build a case against him and they’ve come up with nothing to back up the so-called confession he signed after being tortured apart from deeply compromised witness statements.”

Mr Singh said his brother should be preparing to celebrate his fifth wedding anniversary with his wife on Tuesday.

He said: “How can we celebrate when he’s behind bars? We need him home with us in Dumbarton.”

Mr Johal travelled from Scotland to India in October 2017 for his wedding.

But a fortnight later, while on a shopping trip with his new bride in the North Indian state of Punjab, he was taken away by police and has been in detention ever since.

The latest development comes two months after the UK intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 were accused of tipping off Indian authorities.

Jagtar Singh Johal (right) with his brother Gurpreet
Jagtar Singh Johal (pictured right with his brother Gurpreet) has been held in India since November 2017

Lawyers for Mr Johal have lodged a complaint against the UK government, after Reprieve uncovered evidence suggesting MI5 and MI6 passed information about a British national to foreign authorities who was then detained and tortured – details which match Mr Johal’s case.

  • PM says Scot’s detention in India is ‘arbitrary’
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In May an investigation by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that there was no legal basis for Mr Johal’s detention in India.

It cited multiple violations of his human rights – including claims he was tortured into signing a false “confession”, via electric shocks to his earlobes, nipples and genitals.

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesman said: “We have consistently raised our concerns about Mr Johal’s case directly with the government of India, including his allegations of torture and his right to a fair trial and we are committed to doing what we can to assist him.

“The UK strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle and we will continue to make this clear to the government of India.”

Top picture: Campaigners Cllr David McBride, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Gurpreet Singh Johal.

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