Brother of British blogger held in India hopes Cameron will secure release

The brother of a Briton held in an Indian jail for more than six years has said he is “hopeful” the new foreign secretary can secure the blogger's release.

Gurpreet Singh Johal said he hoped Lord David Cameron, who made a dramatic return to the political frontline in a reshuffle last week, can use his “expertise and leverage” to bring his brother Jagtar Singh Johal home .

Mr Johal, from Dumbarton, Scotland, was in Punjab, northern India, for his wedding in 2017 when his family said he was arrested and tied up in an unmarked car.

He said he has been tortured, including by electric shock, and faces the death penalty for his activism and campaigning for Sikh human rights.

The bottom line is that my brother's life depends on what David Cameron decides to do and whether he decides to ask for Jagtar's release to bring him back home

Gurpreet Singh Johal

His brother Gurpreet Singh Johal said the family feel they have been failed by the UK government but hope former prime minister Lord Cameron can make a difference.

He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland: “We're hopeful that this Foreign Secretary, first of all, will have to meet us to confirm exactly what he's going to do to bring Jagtar back home, but really enough is enough because this government has really failed Jagtar and his family for the last six years.

“Rishi Sunak said he's using David Cameron's experience, that's why he brought him in, so hopefully the contacts that David Cameron has made over the years when he was prime minister will allow him to use that leverage and to do that which all the other foreign ministers have failed to do and basically they are asking for Jagtar's release because the UK government has a policy and the policy is if you are detained arbitrarily, as the UN working group on detention has found, that they should ask for release .

“We are optimistic that the sixth foreign minister in six years can do something that other foreign ministers have not been able to do.”

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said last year that “Mr. Johal's continued pretrial detention lacks legal basis and is arbitrary.”

Mr Johal has written to Lord Cameron urging him to work to secure his brother's release.

Mr Johal said “strong action” was needed to bring home his brother, who has been held for 2,208 days, and that it was not just about “soft diplomacy”.

He added: “The bottom line is that my brother's life depends on what David Cameron decides to do and whether he decides to ask for Jagtar's release to bring him back home.”

In his letter to Lord Cameron, Mr Johal wrote: “Jagtar is a British citizen, born and raised in Scotland, being arbitrarily detained abroad on politically motivated charges and facing a possible death sentence.

“It must be a priority for the UK government to resolve his case and bring him home.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak raised Mr Johal's case when he met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi in September.

At the time he said the government was committed to seeing Mr Johal's case resolved as soon as possible.

Mr Johal said he last spoke to Jagtar on his brother's wedding anniversary on October 18 and that his brother is trying to stay positive and hopes he can be released on bail within months.

He said: “He's hopeful in the next six months or so that he could at least be out on bail, but that's as far as I know because I don't know what condition he's in.

“He's trying to shine a light at the end of the tunnel thinking he'll be out for the next six months at least on bail.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “The UK Government is committed to seeing the case of Jagtar Singh Johal resolved as soon as possible.

“We continue to provide consular assistance to Mr. Johal and his family and have consistently raised his case directly with the Government of India.”