THE UK Foreign Secretary must declare a Scot who was jailed in India five years ago as being unlawfully detained and pledge to prioritise his release over any trade deal, an MP has said.

Martin Docherty-Hughes has been fighting to secure the release of his constituent and Sikh human rights campaigner Jagtar Singh Johal – known as Jaggi - for five years.

The UK Government says it has consistently raised Johal’s case with India and former prime minister Boris Johnson stated for the first time in June that Johal is being arbitrarily detained.

But his successor Liz Truss – who was foreign secretary under Johnson – did not follow suit and nor has the current Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

There has also been some speculation the UK Government is prioritising signing a free trade agreement with India over working to secure Johal’s release.

A demonstration was held outside Downing Street on Thursday to mark five years since he was abducted, allegedly tortured, and then detained. In May, he was formally charged with conspiracy to commit murder and being a member of a terrorist gang and now faces the death penalty.

Gurpreet Singh Johal, his brother, claimed the UK Government had “wronged” Jaggi and let down the family as he spoke at the protest.

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Docherty-Hughes has now called on Cleverly to take a stand and demand Johal is freed.

He told the National: “He [James Cleverly] needs to agree with the former prime minister [Johnson] in writing or on the floor of the House that Jagtar’s detention is arbitrary.

“Trade is good but not at the price of the human rights of constituents or citizens. That, in a modern democracy, is non-negotiable and clearly, the Indian state authorities have had five years in which to charge Jagtar and have only now started to charge him.

%image('14533825', type="article-full", alt="Martin Docherty-Hughes has raised Jagtar Singh Johal's case in the House of Commons")

“Five years is a long time and if they don’t have the evidence then they just need to let him go.

“He [Cleverly] needs to recognise the validity of the decision of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. He needs to recognise and be very implicit that free trade does not come at the cost of the human rights of citizens.

“I would’ve said previously that all he needed to do was demand a free and fair trial, but there is no way he [Johal] will get that. In my view, that opportunity no longer exists given the amount of publicity and the amount of times he’s appeared in court without a charge, and the consistent mechanisms of the state in manipulating the media in India to portray him as guilty.

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“He [Cleverly] now needs to demand he comes home.”

A report published by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - a body of independent human rights experts – in May concluded there is no legal basis for Johal’s continued imprisonment.

It emerged in August that British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 may have provided a tip-off that ultimately led to the arrest of Johal, who was originally from Dumbarton.

Human rights organisation Reprieve showed documentation to the BBC which said there was strong evidence Johal’s arrest came from a tip-off from British intelligence. 

Docherty-Hughes has organised two separate meetings with Cleverly – one to discuss whether he will state Johal has been arbitrarily detained and the other to demand clarification on MI6’s potential involvement.

At the latter meeting, he is also set to be joined by several other MPs who have supported his calls for an explanation to be brought forward including Tory MP David Davis.

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson, said: “We have consistently raised our concerns about Mr Johal’s case directly with the Government of India, including his allegations of torture and his right to a fair trial and we are committed to doing what we can to assist him.

“The Foreign Secretary visited India and raised his case with External Affairs Minister [Subrahmanyam] Jaishankar on October 29.

“The UK strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle and we will continue to make this clear to the Government of India.”