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Lord Cameron wants to ‘do the right thing’ for Briton detained in India


By PA News

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Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron has vowed to review the UK Government’s involvement in the case of a British man who has been held in an Indian prison for more than six years to “make sure we are doing the right thing”.

On his first visit to Scotland since becoming Foreign Secretary, he met the family of Jagtar Singh Johal.

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

He is said to have been tortured, including with electric shocks, and faces the death penalty as a result of his campaigning for Sikh rights.

Supporters of Jagtar Singh Johal have been lobbying the British Government to act over his case (James Manning/PA)
Supporters of Jagtar Singh Johal have been lobbying the British Government to act over his case (James Manning/PA)

When Lord Cameron returned to politics last November, after being appointed Foreign Secretary, Mr Johal’s family said they were hopeful he could make a difference.

His brother, Gurpreet Singh Johal, said at the time: “We’re hopeful that the sixth foreign secretary after six years might do something that the other foreign secretaries have failed to do.”

After a “very important meeting” with the family on Monday, Lord Cameron stressed he was taking the case “incredibly seriously”.

Speaking as he visited the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office building in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, he said he would review the action taken so far, but stopped short of calling for Mr Johal to be released.

I take these cases very seriously. I am going to re-examine everything and make sure we are doing the right thing
Lord Cameron, Foreign Secretary

Lord Cameron said: “As Foreign Secretary I have looked at the case, examined all the paperwork.

“I wanted to meet there with the family and hear from them what they think. And I want to really stress, as an incoming foreign secretary, you don’t just accept what the Government has said up to now, you really look at it, really ask the questions.

“And meeting with the family today is going to help me to go back and ask those questions all over again to make sure we’re doing the right thing for this British citizen.”

While not calling for Mr Johal to be released, Lord Cameron said: “The Indian government has got to speed up this case.”

He added: “What I have said to the family is I am going to go back to my office and look at the paperwork all over again.

“I am going to take into account what they have said and see whether there is a different approach we should be taking.

“I’ve made absolutely no promises that it will be different, but what I have said is I take these cases very seriously.

“I am going to re-examine everything and make sure we are doing the right thing.

“That’s what you should always do, whether it is someone who has been taken hostage, whether it is someone who is in prison.”

Dabinderjit Singh, principal adviser at the Sikh Federation (UK), however, claimed that UK foreign secretaries had so far “failed” to take the “tough action” needed in this case, adding that the “jury is out” on whether Lord Cameron will have an impact.

Commenting after the meeting, Mr Singh said: “Jagtar’s family not only deserve answers from David Cameron to justify the UK Government approach to a British national being tortured and arbitrarily detained for over six years in an Indian jail, they also need a new strategy to secure his speedy release and return to Scotland to be with his family.

“Jagtar’s MP, Martin Docherty-Hughes has been doing a fantastic job to raise his case at every opportunity, but the UK Government has failed for over six years to take the tough action the Foreign Minister promised in the UK Parliament within weeks of his abduction and torture.

“The British Sikh community and the wider British public expect better from the UK Government to protect British nationals.

“The jury is out if David Cameron can do the decent thing by using his experience to secure Jagtar’s release where other Foreign Secretaries and PMs have failed.”

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