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UK ‘not averting eyes’ from detention of campaigning Sikh blogger

Accusations that the UK chose to ‘turn a blind eye’ to the detention and alleged torture of a Scottish Sikh blogger in India have been dismissed by a Foreign Secretary.

Culminating in Westminster, Tory frontbencher Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, who worked on the case of Jagtar Singh Johal, insisted progress was being made.

His response followed claims the UK government was turning a blind eye to the 35-year-old’s plight due to trade deal negotiations.

Mr Johal, from Dumbarton, was in Punjab, northern India, for his wedding in 2017 when his family said he was arrested and taken away in an unmarked car.

He said he was tortured, including by electric shocks, and faces the death penalty for his activism and campaigning for Sikh human rights.

We talk about the importance of freedom of expression. Will the minister agree that it smacks of hypocrisy when we choose to turn a blind eye when negotiating a trade deal with India?Lord Singh of Wimbledon

Lobbying the Government in Parliament, Lord Singh of Wimbledon, a former contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought For The Day, said Mr Johal is a British blogger “who has drawn attention to the continuing human rights abuses of minorities by India”.

The independent crossbencher told the chamber: ‘For this he was incarcerated and tortured for years in an Indian jail and faces the death penalty.

Highlighting the discussions held between the UK and India over Mr Johal’s fate, he asked the Minister: “What has actually been achieved?

“We talk about the importance of freedom of expression. Would the Minister agree that it smacks of hypocrisy when we choose to turn a blind eye when negotiating a trade deal with India? »

On the issue of the death penalty, the British government opposes it in every way. The Indian authorities are fully aware of the UK’s position in this regard.Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

In response, Mr. Ahmad said: “Let me assure him that we are not looking away.

“Our relationship with India is a strong one. It is a relationship between friends and constructive partners.

“It’s largely because we invest in this relationship that allows us to raise sensitive cases and issues, including this particular case and others.”

He added: “We are making progress, in my opinion. Of course, I am totally with the family and the continued detention has caused them much, much anxiety and continues to do so.

“On the issue of the death penalty, the UK government opposes it in every way. The Indian authorities are fully aware of the UK’s position in this regard.

A UN panel of legal experts said Mr Johal’s detention was arbitrary, “without legal basis” and based on “discriminatory grounds” because of his Sikh faith and his “status as a defender of human rights”. human rights “.

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