Jagtar's trial has been repeatedly delayed
Nicola Sturgeon has urged Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to intervene in the case of Jagtar Singh Johal, who has been imprisoned in India for nearly four years.
He is awaiting trial and is facing the death penalty after he was allegedly tortured into signing a blank confession.
In Sturgeon’s first formal intervention on the case, the First Minister detailed the Scottish government’s “deep concerns” about Jagtar’s detention without trial as well as his allegations of torture by Indian authorities while in custody.
The letter adds further pressure on the UK government after nearly 140 parliamentarians wrote to Raab in February 2021 calling for him to seek Jagtar’s release.
Jagtar is being supported by the legal NGO Reprieve, whose deputy director Harriet McCulloch described his situation “as clear a case of arbitrary detention as we’ve come across”.
She said that Jagtar’s trial has been repeatedly delayed at the prosecution’s request, despite numerous court appearances.
In addition, basic information has been denied to his defence counsel.
Jagtar, from Dumbarton, was violently arrested by plainclothed officers in Punjab in October 2017.
He is accused of conspiring to murder a number of right-wing Hindu leaders.
It was alleged that he paid £3,000 to a Sikh who was planning to kill members of the extremist nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
It is an allegation that he denies.
In the letter, Sturgeon has urged Raab to personally meet Jagtar’s family after her own meeting with his brother Gurpreet Singh Johal.
The letter stated: “Gurpreet expressed his disappointment with the support his brother and their family have received from the FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office].
“He also questioned why the British prime minister did not raise Jagtar’s case with the Indian prime minister in April this year.”
Boris Johnson has looked to cement economic ties with India as part of the UK government’s wider foreign policy strategy by holding online talks with Narendra Modi in May and during the G7 summit in June.
Gurpreet Singh Johal told the Guardian:
“I am very grateful for the Scottish government’s support, but my brother really needs the Westminster government to seek his release and bring him home.
“Our family is devastated that almost four years after he was abducted and tortured, the Foreign Office has still not fulfilled its promise to take ‘extreme action’ on his case.
“I hope the foreign secretary will meet with me and do everything in his power to save Jaggi’s life.”