Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has spoken out in Parliament over the case of Jagtar Singh Johal, a Scottish man who has been held in an Indian jail without conviction for three years. Mr Johal, who was travelling to India to get married in 2015 when he was arrested, is being held under India's anti-terror laws, accused of conspiring to murder a number of right-wing Hindu leaders.
Media reports suggest he may have been tortured in order to obtain a blank confession – and Mr Johal has now gone through 161 pre-trial hearings without trial. Mr Carmichael and other MPs called on the responding minister to state whether they considered his treatment to be arbitrary detention, a question the government refuses to answer.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Carmichael said:
“There is a great deal that I could say about this case, but time is short. I will limit myself to three brief points.
“First, I understand the concerns that the Minister will have with regard to the apparent interference in the criminal justice system of another sovereign state. However, I bring to his attention the quite remarkable and wholly inappropriate briefing note circulated to Members of this House today; it was brought to the Deputy Speaker’s attention by the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire. It demonstrates, in the way in which it is constructed—both in terms of its highly misleading and inaccurate content and how it strays into discussion of the procedure and indeed substance of the case against Jagtar Singh Johal—that in fact the Indian Government themselves do not have great regard for the propriety of the independence of their own criminal justice system.
“Secondly, the absolutely most crucial point is that Jagtar Singh Johal has been the subject of very strong prima facie arbitrary detention. As has been made clear by counsel instructed by Reprieve and Redress, this is caught by categories 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the guidance produced by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. If the advice given or the conclusions drawn by the Minister and his staff are different, I hope he will explain exactly where these differences come from.
“Thirdly, Jagtar’s position is undoubtedly grim, but he is actually in a much better position than just about everybody I have ever campaigned for and worked with when they were facing the death penalty, because he has not yet been through the judicial process. I have looked at just about every death penalty case I have ever been part of and thought, “Dear God, if only we had got to this at first instance.” We are well ahead of that point at the moment. The Government should be implementing their own policy with regard to arbitrary detention. They have rightly done it for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and others often enough. Why are they not doing it for Jagtar?”