PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak said he had spoken with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi about the continued detention of a British Sikh human rights campaigner in the south Asian country.
Jagtar Singh Johal was arrested in the northern state of Punjab when he was shopping with his wife in November 2017. The 36-year-old man from Dumbarton in Scotland was in May last year charged with being a member of a terrorist network linked to Sikh nationalism and with conspiracy to murder – for which he could face the death penalty under Indian laws.
Johal claimed innocence and Indian authorities have denied his accusations that he was tortured in prisons.
“The foreign office are continuing to provide support to Mr Johal’s family and will continue to do so,” Sunak said without elaborating.
Johal’s brother and Labour councillor Gurpreet welcomed Sunak’s statement but wondered if the prime minister’s talk would transpire into any meaningful action.
“I am pleased that the prime minister has raised my brother’s case with his (Indian) counterpart, but raising (it) is not enough unless he has called for Jagtar’s release…,” Gurpreet told the BBC.
Last year, a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention urged India to release Johal unconditionally and provide him with “an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations” under international laws.
According to the panel, investigators found that his right to a fair trial was “violated”.
Gurpreet said Sunak raised the issue out of compulsion as several MPs had “demanded he do so.”
“I fear that this is just more talk from the UK government and no action,” Gurpreet, who is also a lawyer, said, adding his campaign would continue “until Jagtar is back home in Scotland”.
Last year, then-prime minister Boris Johnson had described Johal’s detention as arbitrary and his successor Liz Truss met the family who have been urging the government to secure his release.