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British PM says India has arbitrarily detained Johal, raised issue with Modi

Johal was arrested on November 4, 2017, from Jalandhar by the Punjab Police for his alleged role in targeted killings, including that of RSS leader Brigadier (retired) Jagdish Gagneja.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar |
Updated: July 2, 2022 11:59:46 am
Jaggi Johal is currently lodged at Delhi’s Tihar jail. (File Photo)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has for the first time said that UK national Jagtar Singh Johal, alias Jaggi Johal, has been “arbitrarily detained” in a Delhi jail and that he had, during his India trip in April this year, “personally” raised the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Johnson also said that the British officials have raised with the Indian government almost 100 times the issue of “Johal’s treatment and his right to a fair trial” since his detention in November 2017. The British PM made the disclosure in a letter to Keir Starmer, the Labour Party leader and Member of Parliament for Holborn and St Pancras, on June 21.

Johal was arrested on November 4, 2017, from Jalandhar by the Punjab Police for his alleged role in targeted killings, including that of RSS leader Brigadier (retired) Jagdish Gagneja, reported between April 2016 to October 2017. He is yet to stand trial in any case and is currently lodged in Delhi’s Tihar jail. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is probing eight cases against him.

“Thank you for your letter of May 31 about Jagtar Singh Johal, a British national who has been detained arbitrarily in India for the past four and a half years,” wrote the British PM.

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“I am grateful for your interest in this matter.

Ministers and officials of the Government have consistently raised the UK’s concerns directly with the Government of India about Mr Johal’s treatment and his right to a fair trial,” the letter stated.

Johnson added, “We have done so on almost a hundred occasions since Mr Johal’s detention in November 2017. More recently, during her visits to India in October 2021 and March 2022, the Foreign Secretary raised Johal’s situation with India’s External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. When I visited Delhi in April, I raised Johal’s case personally with Prime Minister Modi as part of a wide-ranging discussion about bilateral and international affairs.”

“I am pleased that you recognise the deep and enduring bonds we have with India. We are continuing to work with its government to resolve Johal’s case. As recently as June 9, the Foreign Secretary met Martin Docherty-Hughes, Johal’s MP for West Dunbartonshire, along with members of Mr Johal’s family, to discuss our involvement in the case. Please be assured that the Government is doing all it can diplomatically to assist Johal,” read the letter.

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Earlier this year, the United Nation’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in a report, had said that Johal was “abducted” and “tortured” in 2017, adding that the probe agencies looking into his case have failed to produce any evidence against him. The UN group too had termed Johal’s arrest “arbitrary” and “in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant”.

It and also sought his immediate release with “compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.”

Johal’s family in the UK has been lobbying for his release since his arrest. His brother Gurpreet Singh Johal was elected a Labour councillor in the Scottish local elections in Dunbarton recently.

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Johal’s lawyer, Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, said, “11 cases were registered against Johal in India of which eight are being investigated by the NIA, two by Punjab Police and one by Delhi Police’s Special Cell. Chargesheets have been filed in all the cases. However, the charges are framed only in one case that was registered by Punjab Police immediately after his arrest from Jalandhar. Johal has already secured bail in three cases, including the one in which charges are framed. He was discharged from one case that was registered by Punjab Police.”

Following his arrest in 2017, the Punjab Police had claimed that Johal, in a confessional statement, admitted to have met (now deceased) Harminder Singh alias Mintu in France and giving him £3000. Police also claimed that he allegedly provided £800 to buy weapons used in targeted killings in Punjab.

“Police and NIA cases against Johal are based on his alleged confessional statement. They don’t have anything substantial against Johal and they couldn’t bring any evidence in support of the alleged confessional statement,” said his lawyer.

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First published on: 01-07-2022 at 12:12:49 pm

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