Sunak govt should make its position clear on Sikh activist: Oppn

London, March 1 (IANS) UK Labour party leader Keir Starmer has said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Foreign Office seem to be pulling back support for British Sikh Jagtar Singh Johal, lodged in an Indian jail for five years.
According to The Guardian, the Sunak government has refused invitations to echo assertions that India has arbitrarily detained Johal.
Johal aka Jaggi Johal was arrested by Punjab Police on November 4, 2017, in Jalandhar over his alleged role in killings by the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), a banned terrorist organisation.
Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as a UN panel on arbitrary detention had said last year that Johal has been arbitrarily detained, without any prosecution started.
Calling it an “important step”, Starmer wrote to Sunak early in February asking him what action he intends to take on the matter.
“I would like to ask if you can confirm if the UK government still believes that Jagtar is being arbitrarily detained and if so, what further steps your government will take to secure a breakthrough in the case?” he said.
In response, according to The Guardian report, Sunak avoided the direct question, saying that the FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) “continues to provide consular support” to Johal and his family.
The Labour leader said Johnson’s recognition of arbitrary detention should have led the FCDO to formally seek the Briton’s release, which did not happen.”I am therefore concerned that in his response to my letter and in discussions with Jagtar’s family, Rishi Sunak’s government may now be backsliding on their previous stance. To ease these fears, it is crucial No. 10 and the Foreign Office make their position on arbitrary detention clear,” The Guardian cited Starmer as saying.
“It is the duty of the British government and political parties in Westminster to make proper representations and do what it takes to bring him home to his family in Dumbarton.”
An FCDO spokesperson told the paper that they have consistently raised concerns about Johal directly with the Indian government, including allegations of torture and his right to a fair trial.
“We are committed to doing what we can to assist him,” the spokesperson told The Guardian.
The free Johal protests are now directed toward the British — earlier they were targeting India — after a BBC report revealed last year that the alleged KLF activist was arrested in India on the basis of information provided by the UK intelligence, IANS reported earlier.
According to BBC, Johal’s activities in the UK as a fundraiser for Sikh separatists active in Punjab were in the knowledge of the British intelligence agencies.

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