Britain looking into torture claims of UK citizen in India

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 09, 2018

Jagtar Singh Johal is accused of targeted killings in Ludhiana, Khanna and Jalandhar

The British government has said it is looking into claims that a British citizen, Jagtar Singh Johal, has been tortured while in custody in Punjab, pledging that it would take “extreme action” should it emerge that torture had indeed taken place. Speaking in the House of Commons, following a question from Johal’s MP in Scotland, Martin Dochert-Hughes, Foreign Office Minister Rory Stewart said that Britain and India took allegations of torture very seriously.

“Its completely unconstitutional, it is offensive to the British government and we will work very closely to investigate, and we will of course take extreme action if a British citizen is being tortured,” he told the House of Commons on Tuesday.

On Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC’s Asian Network that the government was pursuing the case “with concern” and would take action if necessary.

Pressure has been building on the British government in this case, including from parliamentarians across the political spectrum, with the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs writing to the Foreign Office calling for an urgent investigation into the case, and what it described as a “catalogue of failures” by Indian local and state authorities.

“The message to India is that if you are open and you want to have dialogue you have to have openness, transparency and fairness for the Punjabi diaspora that live in the UK – this does not give us the confidence or the ability to form relationships with you,” she told a gathering of protestors outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London last week.

Stewart confirmed on Tuesday that the deputy high commission has since gained access to Johal, who appeared in court last week.

Targeted killings

Johal was arrested in Jalandhar earlier this month, shortly after his wedding took place in the city.

He is accused, according to tweets by Captain Amarinder Singh, the State’s Chief Minister, of involvement in “targeted killings” in Ludhiana, Khanna and Jalandhar. “Breakthrough in targeted killings with arrest of 4, conspiracy was hatched by #ISI on foreign soil to spread communal disturbances,” he tweeted on November 7, adding that the four who had been arrested were using “encrypted mobile software/apps for communication with handlers based in Pakistan, western countries; were trained abroad.”

However, his treatment has faced condemnation from UK-based groups such as the Sikh Federation UK, with a #FreeJaggiNow campaign building online, and supported by a number of MPs. Sikh community groups lobbied MPs in Parliament on Tuesday to raise awareness of the issue, while Docherty has written to May seeking a meeting for her with the family of Johal.

“British citizen, arrested in India, denied medical examination, concerns of torture while in police custody. His case is gaining support from elected representatives around the world,” tweeted Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, earlier this week.

Published on November 21, 2017

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