OVER the past four years, there have been two prime ministers, a World Cup, an Olympics and now the opening of the world's "last chance" climate summit, COP26, in Scotland.

Dumbarton man Jagtar Singh Johal has missed it all. For the past 1460 days, he's been detained in India, pending trial on the most grievous charges. His family say he's innocent, MPs say he's being arbitrarily detained and all are still waiting for evidence to be led against him.

At the time of his arrest on this day in 2017, Indian authorities indicated that they had everything they needed to convict him.

But his story has reached around the world and today demonstrations are expected as far away as Canada as the Sikh diaspora continues the #FreeJaggiNow campaign.

Today's anniversary coincides with a major date in the Sikh calendar, Bandi Chhor Divas, or liberation of prisoners day. Today marks its 400th anniversary.

The National:


ACCORDING to tradition, the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind, was made a political prisoner and was given the opportunity for release, but would only agree to this if 52 Hindu kings being held with him were also allowed to go free.

When the Emperor Jahangir said that only those holding the Guru's coat would be let go, the Guru made a coat with 52 tassels to allow all to proceed.

All were imprisoned without due legal process and the day has become linked to human rights issues.

Jagtar Singh Johal –who was bundled into an unmarked van by plain clothes operatives while shopping with his new wife shortly after their Punjab wedding – has released a detailed letter accusing authorities of torture. He's also had only sporadic contact with his family and has been unable to hold regular private meetings with British consular officials.

His brother Gurpreet, a solicitor based in Glasgow, is leading the campaign for his release and has highlighted the connection with Bandi Chhor Divas, noting that "the fourth anniversary of my brother's unjust detention falls on the same day".

READ MORE: Why case of 'West Midlands 3' matters to jailed Scot Jagtar Singh Johal


JAGGI has not been formally charged over the serious allegations against him, which include membership of the proscribed Sikh nationalist Khalistan Liberation Front (KLF) and paying £3000 to fund a murder plot targeting right-wing Hindus. It's understood he may face the death penalty.

Official charge-sheets also list further men said to have been involved in the "series of killings", with the KLF described therein as a "terrorist gang". It's claimed that Jaggi "actively participated and had complete knowledge of the conspiracy".

However, some claims have been dropped, such as the claim that Jaggi plotted the murder of a man in October 2020 – from within the prison where he is under 24-hour surveillance.

And yet a trial is yet to proceed.

Gurpreet said: "The Indian authorities have failed to produce any evidence against Jagtar or formally charge him on the serious allegations alleged against him, despite my brother languishing in an Indian jail.

"The UK Government have failed to apply their own policy and call for the release of an arbitrarily detained British national like they have for others, detained in other countries. 

""Four years on, no openness, transparency or due process, nor any formal charges/trial says it all; for a country who claim to be a democracy, surely this proves it is not?"

The National:


YESTERDAY Boris Johnson was asked directly about the case in the House of Commons by Martin Docherty-Hughes, the family's MP, who suggested that the Scotsman's case had been "overshadowed by excitement" over a potential trade deal with India.

He asked: "As we approach the fourth anniversary of Jagtar's arrest tomorrow, with no charges having been brought in the case by the government of India, will this government be able to grant the smallest of favours to Jagtar's wife and his family in Dumbarton and declare his detention an arbitrary one?"

Thanking Docherty-Hughes "for the campaign that he's been running for a long time", the Prime Minister replied: "What I would say to him is that the closeness of our relationship with India in no way diminishes our willingness to raise that case with the government of India. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary raised it only the last time she was in India."

But Gurpreet, who has received backing from the First Minister and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar as well as MPs from across the political spectrum, says the UK Government has "failed my brother".

International justice campaigns Redress and Reprieve have both backed Jaggi. Referring to talks at COP26, Andrew Purcell of Reprieve told The National: "All this week, representatives of the UK Government are meeting their Indian counterparts, and once again, Jagtar's case is the elephant in the room. He has now been imprisoned without trial for four years, and Liz Truss is the fourth Foreign Secretary to fail to call for his release.

"What is holding them back? Why won't they even meet his family? It looks awfully like they are abandoning a young British man in a Delhi jail for the sake of political convenience."