Ratcliffe slams government for taking ‘long time’ for imprisoned Sikh blogger

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband has criticized the government for taking “a very long time” to resolve the case of a Scottish Sikh blogger who has been imprisoned in India for five years.

Dumbarton’s Jagtar Singh Johal 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.

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

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

Many held placards reading: ‘UK and India exposed to collusion and torture by Jagtar Singh Johal’ as music played and food was handed out.

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

Addressing the crowd, Mr Ratcliffe said: ‘The government has taken a long time to work on our case.

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

“It’s partly because he just does what he wants to do. Its protections are discretionary. He advises families to be quiet.

“But in fact, it is only by making noise, by being embarrassed, that we protect ourselves.”

Mr Ratcliffe went on to say he was ‘sorry’ about the potential collusion between MI5 and MI6.

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

Mr Ratcliffe also called on people to stand ‘in solidarity’ and make sure ‘no one else has to go through the same experience’.

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

“These fights are long, 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 is of course that this is a systemic issue,” he continued.

“A number of British citizens are illegally detained overseas.

“There are around 100 UK citizens tortured by foreign governments every year and how many of them have you heard of?

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

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

He said: ‘The UK government has wronged Jagtar and many other British citizens held overseas. We cannot let this continue.

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

“That’s the situation with the British government, and they may even have had a hand in his abduction and torture.

“Thank you for being here. You are all helping to ensure that the UK Government, which has let us down for the past five years, does not continue to do this, and you are all showing Jaggi that he is not not alone.

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

“It’s a horrible, and quite frankly pathetic, scenario that the UK government finds itself in when dealing with my constituent’s case,” he said.

Earlier this year, a panel of UN legal experts said Mr Johal’s detention was arbitrary, ‘had no legal basis’ and was based on ‘discriminatory grounds’ because of his faith Sikh and his “status as a human rights defender”.

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.

A Foriegn Office spokesman said: ‘We have consistently raised our concerns regarding Mr Johal’s case directly to the Indian government, including his allegations of torture and his right to a fair trial and we are committed to doing what we can to help him.

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

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

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