British Sikh activist ‘tortured in India after tip-off from UK intelligence’

Lawyers for Jagtar Singh Johal say he was given electric shocks after unlawful arrest in Punjab in 2017

A British Sikh campaigner is facing a possible death sentence after the UK intelligence services passed on information about him to the Indian authorities, according to a high court complaint.

Lawyers for Jagtar Singh Johal from Dumbarton, Scotland, say he was tortured, including being given electric shocks, after his unlawful arrest in the Punjab in 2017 where he had travelled for his wedding.

The campaign group Reprieve, which is representing him, says it has uncovered documents suggesting MI5 and MI6 tipped off the Indian authorities about Johal.

“No one should ever be tortured, especially not with the assistance of the UK government,” it said in a petition about the case.

Johal’s brother, Gurpreet Singh Johal, a solicitor and Labour councillor in West Dunbartonshire, told the Guardian he was “astonished” to discover the UK’s involvement.

He said: “We’ve repeatedly been told that they are raising the case at the highest level. It feels as if it was all just lip service. They’ve never told us what they’re actually doing.”

He added: “Jagtar’s wife is heartbroken because she really came to the UK thinking that the UK government will be bringing her husband home.”

This month, Johal’s lawyers, Leigh Day, lodged a claim in the high court against the Foreign Office, the Home Office and the attorney general, his brother confirmed.

It alleges UK intelligence agencies unlawfully shared information with the Indian authorities when there was a risk of torture.

Reprieve is calling on the UK foreign secretary to intervene. It said: “As foreign secretary and potential future prime minister, Liz Truss has a duty to right the wrongs of foreign secretaries before her and, in good faith, to bring Jagtar home and reunite him with his family; ban intelligence sharing where there is a real risk of torture or the death penalty; [and] give torture survivors a right to know if the UK was involved in their abuse.”

It added: “Our government should protect us, not expose us to torture and the death penalty.”

Boris Johnson acknowledged this year that the Indian authorities had arbitrarily detained Johal, adding that the UK government had consistently raised concerns about his treatment and right to a fair trial.

After four and half years in detention, Johal’s lawyers were told he would be charged with conspiracy to commit murder and being a member of a terrorist gang, for which he faces a possible death penalty. He is expected to be formally charged next month.

The Indian authorities say the charges relate to Sikh nationalism. He denies any wrongdoing.

The Foreign Office said it would not comment on an ongoing legal case.

A statement from the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition said that if substantiated, the allegations suggested the UK had facilitated arbitrary detention and torture.

In a statement, its co-chairs, Stephen Timms and Andrew Tyrie, said: “The government’s own principles on torture – designed to ensure that the UK is not involved in it – appear to have been breached. Parliament and the public cannot have confidence that the UK is not involved in kidnap and torture.”


Matthew Weaver

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Boris Johnson accused of intelligence tipoff that led to British Sikh’s alleged torture in India
Labour raises questions in the Commons over Johnson’s alleged actions as foreign secretary in the case of activist Jagtar Singh Johal

Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

07, Sep, 2022 @4:15 PM

Article image
UK supreme court to rule on government responsibility for alleged rendition
Judgments on alleged treatment of jihadi suspects could define extent of human rights protections overseas

Owen Bowcott and Ian Cobain

17, Jan, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
British Sikh 'tortured' in India after arrest must be freed, say MPs
Nearly 140 parliamentarians warn trumped-up charges could result in death penalty for Jagtar Singh Johal

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

28, Feb, 2021 @7:47 PM

Article image
UK's secret policy on torture revealed
Exclusive: Document shows intelligence officers instructed to weigh importance of information sought against pain inflicted

Ian Cobain

04, Aug, 2011 @11:42 AM

Article image
Sturgeon urges Raab to assist Scottish Sikh man allegedly tortured in India
First minister raises ‘deep concerns’ about case of Jagtar Singh Johal, who has been imprisoned for four years awaiting trial

Libby Brooks

22, Aug, 2021 @1:52 PM

Article image
Could the UK become embroiled in human rights abuses in future?
Report makes it clear ISC is not confident there will be no repeat of torture and rendition

Ian Cobain

28, Jun, 2018 @4:43 PM

Article image
UK's role in rendition and torture of terrorism suspects – key findings
Reports reveal extent of British intelligence agencies’ involvement after 9/11

Ian Cobain

28, Jun, 2018 @9:12 AM

Article image
The seduction of British intelligence | Crispin Black

Crispin Black: The torture scandal shows how easily our intelligence services were led astray by US promises of an influence 'upgrade'

Crispin Black

11, Mar, 2010 @1:01 PM

Article image
Alarm as government rewrites UK 'torture guidance' in secret
Civil liberties groups fear guidance to prevent human rights abuses may be weakened

Ian Cobain

01, Apr, 2018 @6:00 PM

Article image
Tortured logic of intelligence chief | Vikram Dodd
Vikram Dodd: Former MI5 head Eliza Manningham-Buller denies knowing about mistreatment of detainees. Didn't she read the papers?

Vikram Dodd

10, Mar, 2010 @1:38 PM