Ratcliffe criticises Government for taking ‘long time’ over jailed Sikh blogger

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has criticised the Government for taking a “very long time” to resolve the case of a Scottish Sikh blogger who has been jailed in India for five years.

Jagtar Singh Johal from Dumbarton was in Punjab in northern India for his wedding in 2017 when his family say he was arrested and bundled into an unmarked car.

He said he has been tortured, including through electric shocks, and faces the death penalty over his activism and campaigning for Sikh human rights.

MI5 and MI6 have since been accused of supplying information that led to Mr Johal’s abduction and torture.

Dozens of protesters gathered opposite Downing Street on Whitehall, central London on Thursday – exactly five years since Mr Johal – known as Jaggi – was arrested.

Many held signs which read: “UK And India Exposed In The Collusion And Torture of Jagtar Singh Johal” as music played and food was handed out.

Richard Ratcliffe and his wife, who was released from prison in Iran earlier this year, both joined the protest.

Making a speech to the crowd, Mr Ratcliffe said: “The government took a long time to work on our case.

“It’s taking a very long time to work on Jaggi’s case.

“Partly that’s because it only does what it wants to do. Its protections are discretionary. It advises families to keep quiet.

“But actually, it’s only by making noise, by making yourself a nuisance, you get protected.”

Mr Ratcliffe went on to say he was “sorry” about the potential collusion by MI5 and MI6.

“There was collusion from the British state in Jaggi’s arrest and experience,” he said.

Mr Ratcliffe also called for people to stand in “solidarity” and make sure “no one else has to go through the same experience”.

“Part of being here really is to be a voice of hope,” he said.

“These battles last a long time, they are tough, they are brutal, there are scars but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“The other reason for being here of course is that this is a systemic problem,” he continued.

“There are a number of British citizens being held unlawfully overseas.

“There are approximately 100 British citizens tortured by foreign governments each year and how many of them have you heard of?

“You’ve heard of Jaggi, you’ve heard of Nazanin – most of them you haven’t.”

Mr Johal’s brother, Gurpreet Singh Johal, also spoke to the crowd, leading the chant: “Free Jaggi, Free Jaggi, Free Jaggi.”

He said: “The British government have wronged Jagtar and many other British citizens detained abroad. We cannot let this keep happening.

“A British national, born and bred in the UK, in detention in an Indian prison for 5 years without conviction.

“This is the state of affairs with the UK government, and they may have even had a hand in his abduction and torture.

“Thank you for being here. You are all helping to make sure the British Government, that have let us down for the last five years, do not keep doing this, and you all show Jaggi that he is not alone.”

Meanwhile, Martin Docherty-Hughes, the SNP MP for Mr Johal’s constituency, told the protesters: “We have seen so many prime ministers, foreign secretaries that even I actually start to lose count.

“It is a horrendous, and quite frankly, a pathetic scenario in which the British Government finds itself when it deals with my constituent’s case,” he said.

Earlier this year, a panel of UN legal experts said Mr Johal’s detention is arbitrary, “lacks legal basis” and is based on “discriminatory grounds” owing to his Sikh faith and his “status as a human rights defender”.

The UN said the appropriate resolution would be to release Mr Johal immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.

An Foriegn Office spokesperson said: “We have consistently raised our concerns about Mr Johal’s case directly with the Government of India, including his allegations of torture and his right to a fair trial and we are committed to doing what we can to assist him.

“The Foreign Secretary visited India and raised his case with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar on 29 October.

“The UK strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle and we will continue to make this clear to the Government of India.”