LAWYERS acting for the Foreign Office have said they do not accept that a Dumbarton man imprisoned in India is being tortured despite officials previously suggesting the opposite.

Jagtar Singh Johal has been languishing in prison for five years, held without trial, and facing a possible death penalty. 

His family say he’s a peaceful blogger and activist, and that the arrest is because he has documented human rights violations against Sikhs in India.

He was abducted from the street by plain-clothes officers while out shopping with his new wife in 2017, and has been detained in a series of Indian prisons ever since.


However, India’s National Investigation Agency claim he is a terrorist and that he played an important role in eight targeted killings carried out by the Khalistan Liberation Force during 2016-2017. 

They have accused him of distributing money to buy arms, and translating “incendiary material online fanning the fires of secessionist sentiments in Punjab.”

Though he has signed a confession, the family claim it was obtained through torture by police officers.

They say he was beaten over a number of days and given electric shocks to his genitals.

These allegations have been denied by the Indian authorities.

Mr Johal is currently suing the British government after his case was seemingly identified in the annual report by the UK’s investigatory powers commissioner.

It set out how MI5 and MI6 passed information about a British national to foreign authorities who then detained him.

Human rights organisation Reprieve said it matches the details in Mr Johal’s case.

In papers lodged at the High Court of Justice in response to Mr Johal's legal claim, the UK government said the allegations were "not admitted".

Their lawyers write: "For the avoidance of doubt, the allegations of torture and/or inhuman or degrading treatment by the Punjab Police… are not admitted."

And they say the UK government denies having "caused, contributed to [or] legal responsibility for any personal injuries, loss or damage suffered by" Mr Johal.

They make several references to Mr Johal having been visited by consular staff from the British High Commission in the days after his detention and appearing "fine", with "no visible injuries".

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They also say "When asked about mistreatment [Mr Johal] said he wanted to discuss this at the next visit."

However, Mr Johal's family and legal representatives say this is at odds with public and other statements made by UK government officials.

His brother Gurpreet Singh Johal told the BBC: "For years, ministers and consular staff have been telling me they take Jagtar's torture claims seriously and that there should be an independent investigation.

"So for the lawyers to question that, now that it's come out that Britain's intelligence services might have played a role in his abduction, is very hurtful."

In an email to Gurpreet in December 2017, a consular official wrote after a visit to Mr Johal: "I just want to reassure you that this does not mean we take at face value that he told us he was well.

"We are conscious that your brother is speaking in front of an Indian official and therefore is considering carefully what he says to us. We know that there is more to be said at the right opportunity."

The same official also wrote: "At the end of my visit the official left the room to get the guard in. At this point Mr Johal whispered to me 'we need to talk about mistreatment, but not now, at a later stage'."

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Reprieve’s director of policy and advocacy Dan Dolan said the UK government's defence was "alarming" and used "artful phrases".

He told the BBC: "Government lawyers claims that he was looking fine are really disingenuous.

"They don't take into account the full context and frankly they look like an attempt from the government to defend itself from a legal claim rather than doing what is right on behalf of this British national."

In a statement, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: "Mr Johal's allegations against the UK government are the subject of ongoing court proceedings and, as such, it would not be appropriate to comment."