ACCUSATIONS the UK has chosen to “look the other way” over the detention and alleged torture of Jagtar Singh Johal have been rejected by a Foreign Office minister. 

Speaking at Westminster, Tory frontbencher Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, who has been working on Johal’s case, insisted that progress is being made. 

His response followed claims the British Government is turning a blind eye to the 35-year-old’s plight because of trade deal negotiations. 

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

READ MORE: Jagtar Singh Johal: How the nightmare in an Indian jail unfolded

He said he has been tortured, including with electric shocks, and faces the death penalty over his activism and campaigning for Sikh human rights. 

Pressing the Government in Parliament, Lord Singh of Wimbledon, said Johal is a UK blogger “who drew attention to India’s continuing abuse of human rights of minorities”. 

The independent crossbencher told the chamber: “For this, he has been incarcerated and tortured for years in an Indian Jail and is facing the death penalty.”

Highlighting talks between the UK and India over Johal’s plight, he asked Ahmad: “What has actually been achieved? 

The National: Jasbir Singh Johal, left, father of Jagtar Singh Johal, at home in Dumbarton with his son Gurpreet Singh Johal and his wife Mandip KaurJasbir Singh Johal, left, father of Jagtar Singh Johal, at home in Dumbarton with his son Gurpreet Singh Johal and his wife Mandip Kaur

“We talk about the importance of freedom of speech. Would the minister agree that it smacks of hypocrisy when we choose to look the other way while negotiating a trade deal with India?”

On Wednesday, it was reported that Johal had written a letter to Prime Minister Liz Truss demanding she make a stand against his imprisonment. 

Ahmad said: “Let me assure him (Johal), we don’t look the other way. 

“Our relationship with India is a strong relationship. It’s a relationship between friends and constructive partners.

“It’s very much because we invest in that relationship that allows us to raise sensitive cases and issues, including this particular case and others.”

READ MORE: UK Government silent on alleged tip-off that led to Jagtar Singh Johal's arrest in Punjab

He added: “We are making progress, in my view. Of course, I am totally with the family and the continued detention has caused them much, much anxiety and continues to do so.

“On the issue of the death penalty, the UK Government opposes it in every respect. The Indian authorities are fully aware of the UK’s position in this respect.”

A panel of UN legal experts said Johal’s detention is arbitrary, “lacks legal basis” and is based on “discriminatory grounds” owing to his Sikh faith and his “status as a human-rights defender”.

The UN said the appropriate resolution would be to release Johal immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.