LAST week three Sikh men – known as the West Midlands 3 – walked free from an English courtroom after facing 12 years of Indian murder plot claims.

They emerged to a cheering crowd of supporters after District Judge Michael Snow said there was insufficient evidence for him to examine the extradition request from Indian authorities.

Guildford Four lawyer Gareth Peirce says there are “astonishing” links between their case and that of Dumbarton man Jagtar Singh Johal, who is approaching his fifth year in an Indian jail over murder conspiracy claims.

Known by friends as Jaggi, he had recently celebrated his wedding in the Punjab region in 2017 when he was bundled into a van. A confession produced afterwards was given under torture says the Sikh human rights blogger, who is still awaiting trial and whose treatment is described by many MPs and the charity Reprieve as arbitrary detention, despite reluctance by the UK Government to give it that status.

The National:

Nicola Sturgeon and Anas Sarwar have both spoken up for Jaggi (above) after meeting with his brother, Glasgow lawyer Gurpreet Singh Johal.

Peirce, whose successful defence of the Guildford Four saw them acquitted and released from jail in 1989 after serving 14 years imprisonment for the 1974 Guildford pub bombings, said the case of the three Sikh men had been “a learning experience”.

Indian authorities wanted English authorities to agree to send the trio – Piara Singh Gill, Amritivir Singh Wahiwala and Gursharanvir Singh Wahiwala – for trial even though a 2011 police investigation resulted in no action against them. They hadn’t been in India at the time of the attack on militant RSS group member Rulda Singh in 2009, but had travelled to the Punjab between 2005 and 2008, documenting the killings of Sikhs. Mark Summers QC, representing Gill and Gursharanvir Wahiwala, said the claims against them were “wholly unjust”.

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Peirce called the case “exceptional”, telling reporters outside Westminster Magistrates Court: “We in the defence were astonished when we began to understand the record of how people in India can be arrested and proceeded against year after year without ever being brought to trial.”

She added: “How it is that a British man, Mr Johal, has been detained year after year after year on evidence of the same kind, of a wafer-thin case based upon a confession that’s come from torture? Of extreme interest to us in investigating was that police officers in this case being used to support the prosecution had themselves been convicted of involvement in disappearances, torture and murder.

“They have been convicted, yet continue to serve as police officers. And one of those officers, we were astonished to note, was one of those officers identified by Mr Johal as having been involved in his torture.”

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CALLING on new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (above) to “take up arms in the case of human rights”, she added: “All of this is relevant to what steps can and should be taken by this country in relation to the position of people like Mr Johal, a British citizen in India.

“We hope that what comes out of this case is that it isn’t fitting to simply accept what a government says.”

The Foreign Office has repeatedly said that it is doing all it can to support Jaggi and his family and has raised the matter 70 times with Indian counterparts. For its part, the Indian government has dismissed criticism over the Jaggi case.

In June, the High Commission of India (HCI) in London responded to objections from MPs over a document circulated to them with claims about the Scot, saying: “Providing authentic facts to well-wishers of JS Johal who have been writing to HCI about his allegations of arbitrary detention does not constitute lobbying. India and UK celebrate our shared commitment to rule of law and due process of law.”

Gurpreet Singh Johal told the Sunday National: “This is not the first time Gareth Peirce has spoken about my brother’s case. The last time she spoke, I had several hundred calls from across the world from well-wishers asking me if I knew how big this was as this was a woman who on her day could topple a government.

"It is not every day a world-famous lawyer openly attacks a government on their blatant attacks on a specific minority.

“In her field, there is no bigger name than Gareth Peirce and she came out and gave a scathing assessment of the UK Government’s handling of my brother’s case.”