THE family of a Dumbarton man locked up abroad have joined forces with others in the same situation to force government change.

Jagtar Singh Johal, known as Jaggi, has been imprisoned in India since November 2017, and has reportedly faced torture from the Punjab authorities.

Accused of being involved in the targeted murder of high ranking right-wing figures in the country, the Sikh activist was arrested when in the country for his own wedding.

Jaggi has since faced 98 pre-trial hearings, along with what his family say are actions infringing on his human rights.

Now, Jaggi’s family have joined with four others to form British Rights Abroad.

The group aims to change the law, making the UK Government legally obligated to protect the rights of citizens when they are in a foreign country.

Four other families are involved in the campaign: those of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is still being held by Iranian authorities; academic Matthew Hedges, who spent seven months in prison in the UAE; Andy Tsege, who spent four years on death row in an Ethiopian jail; and Billy Irving, a former soldier who also spent four years in prison in India.

The families launched a petition, which has so far reached more than 205,000 signatures.

The petition is addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the UK Parliament, calling on the new PM to “protect your citizens abroad”.

Jaggi’s brother Gurpreet told the Reporter: “The most recent contact I had with Jaggi was on July 24 on a call for about two minutes, and before that it was in February 2018.

“Since he’s been detained, we’ve only had two contacts with him. His wife was meeting him before she came back to the UK.

“Since May this year, the only person who has met him is his solicitor, and people from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).”

His most recent contact with Jaggi was so short, Gurpreet said it was hard to gauge his brother’s state of mind.

Read more: Jaggi family call for meeting with new PM

Gurpreet and his family were shocked when Jaggi was arrested to find out how little the FCO can do to help them.

The campaigning families have been in contact for a long time, sharing experiences of what they are going through.

Gurpreet said: “As families, we’ve been discussing these matters and through our experiences about not having enough information, or different approaches being used.

“In a lot of cases, any time you ask them for information, it’s always vague.”

Through the plight of the families, the group “naturally” grew.

They are looking to enshrine in law a process for dealing with cases like their’s.

Gurpreet said: “The issue is, foreign secretaries come and go. For Jagtar, three have come and gone in the time he has been in prison.

“We’re looking to make sure there is a procedure that the FCO follows, which is enshrined in law.

“Irrespective of consular services, British citizens abroad should have basic human rights ensured.”

The petition had 150,000 signatures within 24 hours of going live.

As well as changes to the law, the group is hoping to raise awareness of the fact that there is no guarantee of protection from the UK Government abroad.

Gurpreet said: “We’re trying to make people aware of what can happen.

“As it stands, you don’t know the consequences until you’re put in that situation.”

While the plan is currently in its early stages, Gurpreet said the group will also look to lobby MPs to enlist their help in changing the law.

The Singh family have enjoyed close links with West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes, who raised their plight with Boris Johnson in Westminster.

Mr Docherty-Hughes told the Reporter: “After more than 600 days of incarceration, with accusations of torture against the Indian State, Jagtar has now seen two prime ministers, three foreign secretaries and now four under secretaries of state covering his case.

“The work by Jagtar’s family at home in Dumbarton, along with that of other’s being held abroad, through the new campaign British Rights Abroad group, builds on the parliamentary work being undertaken since 2017, and will play a central part in challenging the new prime minister and foreign secretary to work with me and the family in ensuring justice.”

A spokeswoman for the FCO said the UK Government is unable to interfere in the legal processes of other countries, and - while there is no legal right to assistance - more than 22,000 people are aided every year.

She said: “Foreign Office staff and ministers work hard to secure the best possible outcome in these cases.

“We provide our assistance consistently to all those we support.

“We regularly review the consular support we offer to British nationals overseas to learn from feedback and to continue to improve.”

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Speaking specifically of Jaggi’s case, the spokeswoman said: “Our staff continue to support a British man and his family following his detention in India.

“We continue to visit him regularly and raise concerns with the government of India about his case, including allegations of torture and mistreatment and his right to a fair trial.”