Over 70 UK MPs had appealed Sunak to take up release of Jaggi Johal during his India visit
London, September 9, 2023 (IANS): As British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends the ongoing G20 Summit in Delhi, the UK government has decided not to call for the release of its national imprisoned in India on terror charges for the past five years.
The refusal to call for British Sikh Jagtar Singh Johal’s release came in a letter sent to Scottish National Party MP Martin Docherty-Hughes on Friday, saying that “the course of action would not be in his best interests”, The Guardian reported.
The letter signed by the Minister for Asia, Lord Ahmad, said: “Having carefully considered the potential benefits and risks to Mr Johal of calling for his release, as well as the likely effectiveness of doing so, we do not believe this course of action would be in his best interests.”
Lord Ahmed wrote that with Johal’s trial underway in India, a call for his release would be considered interference in the Indian judicial process, which could jeopardise UK’s ability to offer consular assistance.
The response came after a group of more than 70 MPs called on Sunak earlier this week to urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi to secure Johal’s “immediate release”.
Before them, Docherty-Hughes had sent a letter on July 20.
Lord Ahmad further said that the UK will continue to raise its concerns directly with the government of India, adding that the issue was brought up by the British Foreign Secretary with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on March 1.
“Where appropriate, the Prime Minister will also raise Johal’s case during his upcoming engagements with the Indian government,” Lord Ahmed wrote in response to Docherty-Hughes.
In addition, he said that the UK government will continue to support Johal and his family, keeping their best interests in mind.
“To lead is to choose — and the Prime Minister has chosen not only to prioritise a desperate bid for a free trade deal (with India) over the life of a British citizen, he has also chosen to snub a perfectly reasonable request to him made by more than 70 of his fellow MPs, across all parties,” Docherty-Hughes told The Guardian.
Reacting to the report, British Sikh Labour MP Preet Kaur Gill said that it is shocking that Sunak is not going to call for Johal’s release as he visits India.
“Jaggi is a British national and has been arbitrarily detained. The Sikh community is concerned,” she wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday.
Sharing an audio clip on X from an interview to British radio station BBC Asian Network, Gill said: “What people expect from this government is clear leadership. This is a British national. The least any government should be doing is making sure that they can secure their release, especially when they have been arbitrarily detained.”
Johal from Dumbarton was in Punjab for his wedding when he was arrested from Jalandhar on November 4, 2017, over his alleged role in killings by the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), a banned terrorist organisation.
His family claims that the 36-year-old was tortured, including through electric shocks, before being made to sign a blank confession document — allegations that have been denied by the Indian authorities.
In May 2022, the UN working group on arbitrary detention concluded that he had been arbitrarily detained and that his detention breached international human rights law.
He is currently being held at the Tihar Jail in Delhi and faces a possible death penalty over 10 accusations of murder and conspiracy to murder. (IANS)