THE UK GOVERNMENT has been urged to seek the release of Jagtar Singh Johal, a British national from Scotland, after it was revealed that he is facing a death sentence in India.

Jagtar has been arbitrarily detained since 2017, when he was snatched off the street by plain clothes police three weeks after his wedding. The only evidence against him is a videotaped confession recorded after he had been severely tortured for several days. This month, the Indian authorities introduced new charges against Jagtar which carry a possible death sentence.

Jagtar is a Sikh activist from Dumbarton who sought to draw attention to human rights abuses against India’s Sikh population.

The conspiracy to which the Indian Government has sought to link Jagtar involves an alleged plot to destabilise the Punjab region by assassinating Hindu leaders, but Indian authorities have produced no evidence for this other than Jagtar’s forced confession under torture.

Reprieve, anti-torture campaigning organisation Redress, and the Free Jaggi Now Campaign have written to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), setting out the charges against Jagtar that carry a maximum sentence of death. They say these charges are broadly defined, politically motivated, and based on a forced confession. Reprieve is concerned that the risk of Jagtar being sentenced to death is high given the politicised nature of this case and the current political climate in India.

The Foreign Secretary has previously said the FCDO calls for the release of British nationals where the Government believes “they have been arbitrarily detained”, and campaigners say this approach should be urgently applied in Jagtar’s case.

Reprieve Deputy Director Dan Dolan said: “We are talking about a young British man facing a death sentence on trumped up political charges. It’s just not good enough for the FCDO to make generic requests for due process. Action from the British Government could save Jagtar’s life and bring him home to his family. Why won’t they call for his release?”

International Legal Adviser at Redress, Charlie Loudon, said: “Time is running out. Every day that Jagtar is in prison he is at risk of further torture. And we now have the additional threat of a death sentence. The UK Government promised ‘extreme action’ on Jagtar’s case. It’s time to make good on that commitment by calling for his release.”

Local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has been assisting the family of Jagtar Singh Johal, known locally in Dumbarton as Jaggi.

* Source: Reprieve