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The Guardian

British Sikh ‘tortured’ in India after arrest must be released, MPs say

Nearly 140 parliamentarians warn that false accusations could lead to the death penalty for Jagtar Singh Johal Briton Jagtar Singh Johal (c) escorted to a court in Ludhiana, Punjab in November 2017. Photograph: Shammi Mehra / AFP / Getty Images Near 140 MPs and peers wrote to Dominic Raab urging him to do more to secure the release of a young Sikh man facing the death penalty in India after a confession allegedly extorted under torture. The letter calls on the foreign minister to agree to Jagtar Singh Johal being arbitrarily detained, and says at least three of the charges against him carry the death penalty. In the letter, parliamentarians wrote: ‘When a British national is arbitrarily detained, tortured and faces a death sentence, all on the basis of trumped up political charges, the UK government must make it clear that it is unacceptable. Now is the time for the UK to take a stand and bring this young Briton home. The signatories include former Brexit Secretary David Davis; former Secretary of International Development Hilary Benn; the father of the house, Sir Peter Bottomley; SNP leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford; Sheffield Mayor Dan Jarvis; former Foreign Minister Lord Hain; former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell; and Andrew Rosindell, Conservative member of the Special Committee on Foreign Affairs. They claimed in their letter that Johal, who has been detained for three years, is a Sikh human rights activist from Dumbarton who traveled to India in October 2017 to get married and, three weeks after his marriage, was violently arrested. by plainclothes police in Punjab before being “bound, hooded and packed in a car”. “We understand his arrest was unlawful, effectively amounting to state kidnapping,” they wrote. They added, after his detention, “Jagtar was brutally tortured with electricity to ‘confess’ his involvement in an alleged conspiracy.” Jagtar is backed by the legal NGO Reprieve, which has said that the charges – of buying weapons, conspiring to commit murder and a terrorist act – are all punishable by death under Indian law. He was alleged to have provided £ 3,000 to a Sikh who planned to kill members of the extremist nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a charge he denies. Despite 145 extraordinary court appearances, his trial was repeatedly delayed at the prosecution’s request, and basic information to the defense lawyer was denied. Reprieve deputy director Dan Dolan said: “It is puzzling that the Foreign Office did not ask for Jaggi’s release. We are talking about a young Briton on death row, based on nothing but a supposed confession he recorded after being tortured with electric shock. This is as clear a case of arbitrary detention as you can imagine, but the government did not act to bring it home. Why? “The question is likely to be diplomatically sensitive for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he seeks to cement economic ties with India by traveling to see his Prime Minister Narenda Modi on a trip. postponed, as well as to welcome Modi as a guest at the British G7 rally in Cornwall in June. The courting of India is part of a broader tilt of the British government towards the Indo-Pacific which is likely to be a central feature of Britain’s “World Britain” strategy. • This story was edited on February 28, 2021 to clarify that Jagtar allegedly conspired to kill members of the RSS, not to kill Hindus as stated in a previous version.