Jagtar Singh Johal: Family of Scot held in India say his life depends on new foreign secretary’s intervention

The brother of a Scot jailed in India for six years and facing terrorism charges has called on Foreign Secretary David Cameron to secure his release.

Jagtar Singh Johal, 36, was “arbitrarily arrested” from India's northern Punjab state in 2017 for alleged links to the outlawed Sikh separatist group Khalistani Liberation Force.

Family members claimed the Dumbarton-based “Sikh human rights campaigner” was bound in an unmarked car and has since been subjected to torture, including electric shocks, during his imprisonment. The Indian government denied that he had been tortured or ill-treated.

British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 have been accused of providing information to Indian officials that led to his arrest.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reportedly raised Mr Johal's case with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi in September. Since then there has been no change in India's attitude towards the Sikh activist.

Now his brother, Gurpreet Singh Johal, said he hoped the new foreign secretary would make a difference where successive British governments had failed.

“We are hopeful that this foreign minister, first of all, will have to meet us to confirm exactly what he is going to do to bring Jagtar back home, but really enough is enough because this government has really failed Jagtar and family for the last six years,” the brother told BBC Radio Scotland.

He said the family hoped Lord Cameron would be able to draw on his experience and long-standing diplomatic connections to seek the Briton's release.

“… because the UK government has a policy and the policy is that if you are detained arbitrarily, as the UN Working Group on Detention has found, you should ask for release.

“We are optimistic that the sixth foreign minister after six years can do something that other foreign ministers have failed to do,” he added.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in May 2022 found that Mr Johal's arrest violated human rights law.

Gurpreet Singh Johal said he last spoke to his brother on his brother's wedding anniversary in October. “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 put a light at the end of the tunnel thinking he'll be out for the next six months at least on bail,” he added.

He wrote a separate letter to Lord Cameron, calling on him to take “strong action” to secure his brother's release.

Mr Johal has been in custody for 2,208 days and could face the death penalty if convicted.

“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, Gurpreet Singh Johal added: “Jagtar is a British citizen, born and raised in Scotland, 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.”

Mr Johal was initially arrested in connection with a weapons recovery case, but was later named in seven targeted attack cases, five of which were murder charges related to the separatist movement.

“A total of 11 cases have been registered against Jaggi Johal in India – eight of which are being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), two by the Punjab Police and one by the Delhi Police's special unit,” his lawyer said. Indian Express newspaper last year.

“The UK government is committed to seeing the case of Jagtar Singh Johal resolved as soon as possible,” a spokesman told the PA news agency.

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