British activist Jagtar Singh Johal's case has been transferred to India's counter-terror agency
By: Barfi Culture Team
Published: 19th December 2017

British Sikh activist Jagtar Singh Johal has been taken into custody by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) after being held by Punjab Police for over 45 days without charge.

The NIA is India's federal agency established in 2008, after the Mumbai terror attacks, to investigate terrorism-related cases.

The agency applied to hold Johal for 12 days but was granted only three days by court, Mr Johal's lawyer Jaspal Singh Manjpur told the BBC.

Punjab Police have not provided a statement to Indian media on why Johal was transferred to the NIA's custody, though a source told the BBC international attention may have been a factor.

But the move was not entirely unexpected. A fortnight ago the NIA issued a press release saying it was taking over the murder case of an RSS worker in Punjab.

The press release did not mention Johal but it concluded with this.

"The investigation conducted so far has revealed channelling of funds from foreign countries for execution of the these incidents. The conspiracy also included an element of ideological brainwashing and incitement of the above accused persons on religious grounds by their mentors settled abroad. Investigation of the case is continuing."

Johal has been accused by Punjab's Chief Minister Amarinder Singh of being part of a terror cell responsible for several murders, including that of a christian pastor named Sultan Masih. The NIA is also investigating that incident.

Meanwhile, two MPs have written to the UK Tory minister Mark Field in anger after he told MPs, "Mr Johal has confirmed that he was 'fine'".

Martin Docherty, who represents Johal as the MP for West Dunbartonshire, tweeted: "When my constituent is handcuffed for 24hrs a day and unable to speak freely using the word "fine" to describe his condition requires A: to qualified on an inability to speak freely or B: withdrawn immediately #JagtarSinghJohal deserves better."

He has written to Mark Field MP asking him to withdraw the statement. The Sikh MP Preet Gill has done the same, tweeting: "As chair of the APPG Sikhs I have written a response back to the Minister for Asia @MarkFieldUK highlighting my concerns for a British National #JagtarSinghJohal whose basic rights have not been exercised."

Her letter said: "At their first meeting with Jagtar, some 12 days after his abduction on November 16, the senior consular officer concluded that Jagtar was vulnerable, despite two senior police officers being present which prevented Jagtar from discussing the torture and mistreatment he has experienced. I am surprised you overlooked acknowledging this important fact in your response."

Jagtar Singh Johal is expected to be back in court for a hearing on 22nd December. The 30-year-old denies all accusations against him.

Article published on 19th December 2017 in the People section

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