UN panel says British Sikh man’s detention in India ‘arbitrary’

Jagtar Singh Johal, from Dumbarton in Scotland, was arrested by plain-clothes officers in the north Indian state of Punjab in November 2017 while he was shopping with his wife. He is accused of funding the purchase of weapons used to assassinate right-wing Hindu religious and political leaders, an allegation his family has rejected.

Since his arrest in Jalandhar, nine cases have been registered against Johal who has now been languishing in a Delhi prison without being tried. He said he was tortured and coerced into signing confessional statements.

A UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention urged the Indian government to release him immediately without setting any conditions and “accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations” under international laws.

The panel of UN investigators found that his detention and arrest did not conform to international human rights standards and that his right to a fair trial was “violated”.

“Johal was targeted because of his activities as a Sikh practitioner and supporter and because of his activism writing public posts calling for accountability for alleged actions committed against Sikhs by the authorities”, the group said.

“He was deprived of his liberty on discriminatory grounds, owing to his status as a human rights defender and based on his political activism, religious faith and opinions”.

However, the findings contradict India’s stand that there is “sufficient prosecutable evidence” against him and his rights are “duly honoured”.

Johal’s brother Gurpreet Singh, a Dunbarton councillor in Dunbarton, who has been running a campaign seeking his release, quoted a Downing Street spokesperson as saying that British prime minister Boris Johnson raised Joha’s case with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during his India visit last month.

According to the spokesperson, the UK government is committed to making representations until the concerns are addressed.