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UK urged to act after UN panel rules detention of Briton in India ‘arbitrary’

The UK is under pressure to insist India release Jagtar Singh Johal, a British citizen, after a UN working group ruled he had been arbitrarily detained by India and his detention lacked any legal basis.

Boris Johnson apparently raised the case when he met the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, last month and provided a written note of consular cases, but Foreign Office ministers have not confirmed whether they regard his detention as arbitrary. Johal was arrested after his wedding in the Punjab in November 2017, accused of helping to fund a Sikh-on-Hindu assassination plot – something that he and his family strongly deny.

In what is being described as a watershed moment in the case, the UN panel on arbitrary detention concluded that the “continued pre-trial detention of Mr Johal lacks legal basis, and is arbitrary” because he was abducted by plainclothes officers without an arrest warrant, held incommunicado and denied consular assistance or access to a lawyer. They observe that there is “no judicially admissible evidence against Johal, despite intelligence agencies having over three years to investigate” and conclude that “the appropriate remedy would be to release Johal immediately”.

Johal has claimed he was tortured and forced to sign blank confession statements, and then had extra charges laid against him that had now reached a total of nine cases. He was transferred to Nabha maximum security prison, where he remained until 25 May 2019, before being transferred to a prison in Delhi. The UN report says that despite being in jail for more than four years he has not been charged and no admissible evidence has been produced.

The co-executive director of the human rights group Reprieve, Maya Foa, said: “This is a watershed moment. There is no longer any excuse for the government’s continued failure to call for Jagtar’s release and return. When a British citizen is tortured and held in pre-trial detention for four years, facing a potential death sentence, the prime minister’s responsibility is clear. What is Boris Johnson waiting for?” Read the full story in The Guardian.