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Plea to free Briton held in India who was ‘tortured into signing confession’

Written by on 28/01/2021

A charity is calling on the government to get involved in the case of a Scottish man being held in India, who says he was tortured into confessing to be part of an assassination plot.

Jagtar Singh Johal, from Dumbarton, could face the death penalty in India, after he was detained in 2017 on conspiracy to murder charges over the assassination of Hindu leaders.

The charity Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Johal’s family, has written to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to ask him to call for the release of the Scot, who had travelled to the Punjab for his wedding.

Mr Johal was in India for his wedding when he was arrested. Pic: Free Jaggi Now campaign
Image: Mr Johal was in India for his wedding when he was arrested. Pic: Free Jaggi Now campaign

In the letter seen by Sky News, Reprieve said: “In recent days we have learnt that Jagtar may be facing new, and completely spurious, capital murder charges.

“These charges only increase the risk that Jagtar will be sentenced to death. In the coming days they also present the very real threat of yet more torture aimed at securing a ‘confession’ to these charges.

“Given the absence of evidence, numerous and grave fair trial violations, credible torture allegations and the threat of continued torture and of the death penalty, Reprieve believes that only way to secure Jagtar’s rights would be for the FCDO to make representations for Jagtar’s release and return to the UK.”

The charity says Mr Johal was arrested unlawfully and forced to sign a confession “extracted under brutal torture”, adding that he was “electrocuted on his head, torso and genitals and officials threatened to burn him alive”.

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A handwritten note from Mr Johal, given to Sky News, says his legs were repeatedly pulled apart, and he was beaten and forced to confess on camera, and sign blank pieces of paper.

Deputy director of Reprieve 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 (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 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?”

Mr Johal’s lawyer told Sky News that the next hearing of the case is in Delhi on 2 February, adding police only have a “disclosure statement”, and “no material evidence” linking him to the charges of conspiracy to kill.

The High Commission of India in London has been contacted for comment

A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “Our staff continue to support Jagtar Singh Johal following his detention in India and are in regular contact with his family and prison officials about his health and wellbeing.

“We have consistently raised concerns about his case with the government of India, including allegations of torture and mistreatment and his right to a fair trial.

“There has been extensive ministerial engagement on Jagtar Singh Johal’s case. Most recently, the foreign secretary raised his case with Indian External Affairs Minister (Subrahmanyam) Jaishankar during his visit to India.”

 Sky News

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