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Humza Yousaf: India must release 'tortured' Scot Jagtar Singh Johal from arbitrary detention

Councillor Gurpreet Singh Johal met with First Minister Humza Yousaf and external affairs secretary Angus Robertson

Humza Yousaf: India must release 'tortured' Scot Jagtar Singh Johal from arbitrary detention

First Minister Humza Yousaf has called on the Indian government to release a Scottish man detained without trial for more than 2,000 days.

Jagtar Singh Johal was a newly-wed when he was bundled into a car in an arrest by plain clothes police in India's Punjab region in 2017.

The Dumbarton man, known by friends by the nickname Jaggi, had recently married there and had been out shopping with his new wife when the incident happened.

His family initially believed he had been kidnapped but authorities later revealed the Sikh blogger was in custody. Allegations of involvement in an assassination plot directed at right-wing Hindu figures followed. However, no evidence has yet been led by prosecutors and a panel of UN experts has said he is being subjected to arbitrary detention. That follows complaints by the prisoner that he had been subject to electrocution and other forms of torture and forced to sign blank statements.

His brother Gurpreet, a solicitor and Scottish Labour councillor, yesterday met with SNP leader Yousaf over the 35-year-old's continued imprisonment.

Gurpreet, who heads the #FreeJaggiNow campaign, has been critical of the UK Government's approach to his brother's case, accusing them of putting trade deals before his human rights.

It is feared he may face execution if found guilty and backlogs in the Indian legal system mean it may be decades for the judicial process to run.

After meeting Yousaf and external affairs secretary Angus Robertson in Edinburgh, Gurpreet - who is backed by legal charity Reprieve, said: "I’m grateful that the first minister took the time to meet me, so soon after getting the job. He’s been following Jagtar’s case for a long time, recognises he is arbitrarily detained and told me he’ll do everything he can to bring my brother home.

"The contrast with my recent meeting with the foreign secretary, James Cleverly, was painful. The Scottish Government’s position is clear and unequivocal: there is no legal basis for Jagtar’s detention and he should be set free. It shames the UK Government, which has the power to seek his release, but declines to do so, instead making vague statements of concern for his welfare."

"Guildford Four" lawyer Gareth Peirce is amongst those to call for action on Jagtar's case.

Yousaf commented: "Jagtar Singh Johal has now been imprisoned for more than 2,000 days, and I remain gravely concerned at his continued detention and allegations of his mistreatment and torture in custody.

"I know has been an extremely difficult and distressing time for his family, and their resilience in the face of this ordeal has been extraordinary.

"We continue to call for Jagtar’s immediate release in line with the recommendations of the UN Working Group on Abitrary Detention. Scottish Governments ministers have raised the case directly with the Indian government on numerous occasions, including last year. Although this issue is reserved, I and the Scottish Government will continue lobbying the FCDO and UK Government to use every lever at their disposal to call for Jagtar’s release, and raising the case with Indian authorities on Mr Johal’s behalf."

The Foreign Office said it has raised concerns about Jagtar's treatment with the Indian government more than 100 times, with Cleverly doing so in a March 1 meeting.

A spokesperson said: "We have consistently raised our concerns about Mr Johal's case directly with the government of India, including his allegations of torture and his right to a fair trial.

"We are committed to doing what we can to assist him."

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, said: "There is no excuse for the UK Government’s inaction. Indian prosecutors have had more than five years to come up with a case against Jagtar and have produced no credible evidence. Trials brought in these courts routinely take decades to resolve, due to endless delays. 

"A young British man is being robbed of his youth, on trumped-up charges, and faces being sentenced to death if ministers will not do what it takes to bring him home."

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