Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has criticised the detention of British national Jaftar Singh Johal by Indian authorities for his alleged role in an assassination by the Khalistan Liberation Force, a militant Sikh organisation.
Johnson’s remarks follow condemnation by a UN panel on arbitrary detention which maintained that there was “no legal basis” for his arrest and demanded his release. Johal was arrested in November 2017 and served four and a half years in prison, without any prosecution starting. Johal was arrested after travelling to Punjab for his wedding.
Responding to a letter by the opposition leader, Keir Starmer, Johnson maintained that he had raised the issue with the Indian government almost 100 times since his arrest and that foreign secretary, Liz Truss had similarly raised the issue with her counterpart during visits to India in October 2021 and March 2022. Johnson further stressed that he had raised the issue directly with India’s premier, Narendra Modi, during his visit to India.
Speaking to reporters, Johal’s brother, Gurpreet Singh Johal, thanked the Labour leader for his intervention stating Starmer that:
“He very quickly understood that time is of the essence and if the UK government do not act then a British national could be given the death penalty based on false allegations and manufactured charges”.
“This is a breakthrough moment. I will never forget that it took the UK government almost five years to acknowledge that my brother is arbitrarily detained, or that they only did so after a nudge from the UN and the leader of the opposition, but at least they got there in the end. The next step is to demand his release and bring him home.”
A spokeswoman for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said:
"We consistently raise our concerns about Mr Johal's case with the government of India, including his allegations of torture and mistreatment and his right to a fair trial."