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MP Preet Kaur Gill says 'more needs to be done' to secure release of jailed Scots man

Birmingham Live, 11th September 2023

MP and chair of the APPG for British Sikhs Preet Kaur Gill believes more needs to be done to secure the release of Scot Jagtar Singh Johal who has been held by Indian authorities since 2017 - this comes after Rishi Sunak raised the case with the Indian Prime Minister at the G20 summit in New Delhi this weekend.

Rishi Sunak had faced extreme pressure to highlight the case of Jagtar Singh Johal, from Dumbarton, as over 70 MPs demanded that Mr Sunak lobby for his release. Earlier last week, the Foreign Office ruled out intervening in the case.

Jagtar also known as Jaggi, was detained in Punjab when he was there for his wedding in 2017. The Sikh blogger was locked up and accused of being involved in a political murder plot.

While an investigation by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found there was no legal basis for Jagtar's imprisonment, the 36-year-old has remained in prison for six years and faces the death penalty.

Birmingham MP Preet Kaur Gill, who has been campaigning for Jagtar Singh Johal’s release for years, spoke to BirminghamLive and said more needs to be done by Rishi Sunak to ensure Jaggi is released as soon as possible.

She said: "Six years down the line, it’s really concerning to see the Government backtracking on its commitment to call for Jaggi’s release. It’s unclear exactly what Rishi said when he raised the case of Jagtar Singh Johal to Modi this weekend, but given the significant pushback we have seen from him over the last year, it’s unlikely to be promising.

"Particularly concerning was Sunak’s response to a letter from Keir Starmer in February, in which the PM refused to confirm “if the UK government still believes that Jagtar is being arbitrarily detained and if so, what further steps the Government will take to secure a breakthrough in the case.”

She also explained how it is Foreign Office policy to call for a British National’s release if they have been arbitrarily detained. The MP added: "There should be no confusion over Jaggi’s position and no question over calling for his release. It will concern many in the UK that while Boris Johnson understood Jaggi to be arbitrarily detained, Rishi Sunak seems to hold a different opinion.

"More should be done to call for Jaggi’s release. Every government has a duty to stand up for its citizens arbitrarily detained abroad. The fact that Rishi is cowering away from the issue is simply more evidence of his crippling weakness. Jaggi’s detention is clearly arbitrary and the Government’s refusal to help will worry many British Nationals who could fall victim to a similar situation overseas.

"Unsurprisingly, I’ve had many people from the Sikh community contact me, who feel disheartened and worried by the Government’s inability to stand up for British Sikhs. Jaggi should not have to spend one more day behind bars where he does not belong. Jaggi deserves a government that will stand up for him and arrange a safe return as soon as possible."

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