Foreign Secretary urged to meet family of Scottish Sikh held in India

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt should meet the family of a Scottish Sikh who is being held in India, MPs have heard.

Foreign Office Minister Mark Field, who is responsible for Asia, said he would personally ask his boss to step in on the case of Jagtar Singh Johal.

The case was raised by SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes, who led an adjournment debate on his constituent’s arrest, detention and alleged torture by the Indian authorities.

Indian authorities allege Mr Johal, who was born and brought up in Glasgow, was involved in financing the killing of Hindu leaders.

Mr Docherty-Hughes said he had been raising the case in Parliament for a year, but the Foreign Secretary was yet to meet the Singh Johal family.

He said: “When is the Foreign Secretary going to meet me and the family?

“These allegations of mental and physical torture, threats of violence against family members, simulated execution and forced confessions were horrifying enough when I first raised them a year ago.

“It has got harder as the year has gone on, and the longer it takes for the authorities of the Republic of India to address the issue the possibility of torture recurring cannot be ruled out.”

Mr Field explained his own frustration at the length of time negotiations were taking and pledged to get Mr Hunt involved.

He said: “These things do often take time and the Indian legal process can be slow, as indeed can ours… Sometimes one has to wait for a considerable length of time to get a response.

“I know that is incredibly frustrating, and particularly when there are allegations of maltreatment and torture that becomes an even more serious state of affairs.

“We’ve met Mr Johal’s brother Gurpreet on three occasions in the last year to try and discuss the very slow progress in relation to this case and I’ve offered up a further meeting to the family.

“I will try to make representations that they can meet up with the Foreign Secretary and I expect I shall also be there at any such meeting going forward.”

Labour’s Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) said: “There’s a pattern developing here – where British citizens, in Iran or any other country now – seem to be under threat.

“I wonder what the Foreign Office is doing about that?”

Mr Field later told MPs that FCO staff aimed to “provide tailored support and guidance” to each individual incarcerated abroad, but outlined that around 2,000 Brits at any one time are in detention around the world.

He said: “In the last financial year alone our staff overseas dealt with approximately 5,000 detainees, it is difficult.

“These are some of the most distressing and difficult cases and it is a distress to me that there are British citizens who feel that the FCO has fallen short in its consular service on some occasions.

“Clearly it is something that we will continue to take very seriously.”