Scottish Sikh man charged with murder plot five years after he was arrested in India

A Scottish Sikh who has been detained in India for almost five years has been formally charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Jagtar Singh Johal, 35, from Dumbarton, was also accused of being a member of a terrorist gang.

Justice campaigners, Reprieve said he had been imprisoned on a false confession with "no physical evidence" linking him to the charges.

The Indian government previously said Mr Johal's detention was based on "sufficient prosecutable evidence" after a string of complaints about his arrest the the lack of any case against him.

And in May human rights investigators at the UN went further and formally stated that his detention had no legal basis.

Mr Johal, who was arrested in November 2017 in the Punjab region, is accused of being part of a terror plot against right wing Hindu leaders.

Days after his wedding, 15 men surrounded Mr Johal while the newlywed couple were shopping in Jalandhar. Pulling a hood over his head, they bundled him into a van and drove away.

The Sikh Federation (UK) says he was abducted by Indian plain clothes police officers and Mr Johal has repeatedly alleged torture and mistreatment by the Indian authorities as local media linked his arrest to the killing of a number of prominent Hindu activists.

Jagtar got married in India in 2017

Earlier this month, Boris Johnson accused the Indian government of arbitrarily detaining Mr Johal. In a letter to Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, the then Prime Minister said Mr Johal was arbitrarily detained without formal charges being laid against him.

Reprieve said India's anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), had been repeatedly used to target Sikh activists as government officials attempted to control their movements, meetings and campaigning.

The campaign maintain that the UAPA obliges judges to frame charges even where they know evidence would be inadmissible or easily discredited at any subsequent trial, rendering any detention unlawful.

Dan Dolan, director of advocacy, said: "Jagtar's detention has been recognised as arbitrary by both the British prime minister and a group of UN legal experts.

Gurpreet Singh Johal has criticised the UK government's response to his brother's case Pic: Free Jaggi Campaign

"The framing of charges doesn't change that. He remains imprisoned based on a false confession he signed after days of torture with electricity.

"There is no physical evidence to support these trumped-up political charges. This is self-evidently arbitrary detention."

Mr Dolan said the judge repeatedly asked prosecutors to produce corroborating evidence but they were unable to present any, despite the fact they have had more than four years to prepare a case.

He added: "It would be farcical if it weren't for the fact that a young man's life is at stake.

"UN legal experts have made clear that Jagtar should be released immediately, so what is the government waiting for?"

His brother Gurpreet Singh Johal also urged UK ministers to take action.

He said: "Even after they acknowledged he is arbitrarily detained, they continued to delay.

"The absurd charges framed today, built on a false torture confession, highlight the cost of that negligence.

"Now more than ever, Jagtar needs the UK government to demand his release."

A UK government spokesman said: "We consistently raise our concerns about Mr Johal's case with the government of India, including his allegations of torture and mistreatment and his right to a fair trial."