World News

Canadian convicted of lying in Air India bomb case

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A Canadian man who admitted helping make the bomb that destroyed Air India Flight 182 was found guilty of perjury on Saturday during the trial of two other men accused of history’s deadliest airline bombing.

An artist's sketch shows Inderjit Singh Reyat (L) appearing in BC Supreme Court in Vancouver British Columbia, March 27, 2006. REUTERS/Felicity Don

Inderjit Singh Reyat sat passively in the prisoner’s box as the jury in Vancouver delivered its verdict after more than two days of deliberations. He later gave a short wave to family members as he was escorted from the courtroom into custody.

Reyat was convicted of lying in the trial of two other Canadian men charged with murder for bombing Air India Flight 182, which exploded over the Atlantic Ocean in 1985, killing 329 people.

Prosecutors subpoenaed Reyat as a witness in 2003 after he had pleaded guilty to reduced charges of helping make the bomb at his home in Duncan, British Columbia on Canada’s Pacific coast.

On the witness stand, Reyat, 58, denied knowing what the bomb was to be used for, who organized the plot, or ever asking the name of a man who spent a week at his home completing construction of the explosive device.

The other men accused in the case, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajiab Singh Bagri, were both acquitted of murder. The judge who acquitted them called Reyat an “unmitigated liar” but said Reyat’s testimony was not the major factor in his decision.

Prosecutors say Reyat who was born in India and holds both British and Canadian citizenship, tried to mislead the court.

He denied that, and said his testimony reflected his poor English-language skills. His attorneys argued that as a low-level “soldier” in the plot, Reyat would not have asked questions of its leaders.

Canadian and Indian police have long alleged the bombing was conducted by Sikh extremists living in western Canada as revenge on India for its deadly storming of Sikhism’s Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984.

Police say the plotters planned to destroy an Air India jet over the Pacific Ocean at the same time, but that that suitcase bomb instead exploded in Japan’s Narita airport, killing two baggage handlers.

Prosecutor Len Doust said he was happy they had been able to present Air India-related evidence to a jury, but declined to speculate if the government would now use Reyat’s perjury conviction in an attempt to reprosecute Malik and Bagri.

Reyat will be sentenced November 17. He faces up to 14 years in prison, but his attorney will ask that it be no more than three years. Doust would not say what prosecutors will request.

The Canadian government formally apologized in June to families of the Air India victims, saying authorities failed to act on information that could have prevented the bombings and then to properly investigate to catch the bombers.

Reyat was the only person ever convicted in the case. He spent 10 years in prison for building the bomb that exploded at the Narita airport, and another five years for helping make the Flight 182 bomb.

Police say the investigation remains open, but many of the other people believed to have been involved in the plot have since died, including the man they believe was in charge of the conspiracy.

Reporting by Allan Dowd; Editing by Eric Walsh and Chris Wilson