Air India bombing acquitted shot down in Surrey, BC

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Ripudaman Singh Malik, one of two men acquitted in the 1985 Air India bombings that killed 331 people, was shot dead outside his Surrey business on July 14.

News of the July 14 shooting death of Surrey businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik is sure to bring back painful memories for those who lost loved ones on Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985 .

It was the largest aerial terrorist incident in the world before the 911 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri have been charged in connection with the Boeing 747 bombing off the coast of Ireland as well as a bombing at Tokyo’s Narita airport that killed two baggage handlers.

After more than a year of trial in a secure Vancouver courtroom, they were acquitted. The hearings were covered by international media.

A bomb exploded off the coast of Ireland at an altitude of 31,000 feet. It was timed to leave at Heathrow Airport in London.

For a second, the Boeing 747 was a blip on the screens of air traffic control in Shannon, Ireland; the next day it was gone. What was recovered went to a makeshift morgue in Ireland.

Parts of the plane were later rebuilt in a secret Lower Mainland warehouse as part of trial evidence when the courtroom was moved from downtown Vancouver for that evidence. Media saw the twisted and reconstructed fragments, but were taken away in a sealed van to ensure secrecy of the location.

Global Terrorism

Air India is the worst case of mass murder or terrorism in Canada. Globally, it ranks among the 911 attacks in New York and the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Only a minimal amount of physical evidence was recovered as the wreckage was 6,000 feet below the ocean surface.

Only bomb maker Inderjit Singh Reyat has served time in prison – first for making the bombs, then for perjury during the trial of two other men. He spent much of his adult life behind bars, his lips sealed.

It was after the trial and acquittal of Bagri of Kamloops and Malik of Vancouver that the judge called Reyat an “absolute liar”.

He had been co-accused with the couple but pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for his testimony.

Through this, he became the only person serving time in connection with the mass murder – or, as the National Parole Board put it, “as a result of your perjury, the co-defendants have not been condemned”.

Sikhism and the Babbar Khalsa

To understand the Air India bombings, one must first understand a little about Sikhism and an outfit called the Babbar Khalsa – or Tigers of the True Faith.

The Babbar Khalsa International is a banned terrorist group in Canada.

Yet Sikhism is a peaceful religion founded towards the end of the 15th century in the Punjab region of India. Among its adherents are radicals who advocate for a Sikh homeland called Khalistan.

Members of a now illegal Babbar Khalsa have defended this homeland in various countries, including Canada.

Among the founders of Babbar Khalsa was Talwinder Singh Parmar. He was arrested along with Reyat in 1988.

Parmar used to parade around Surrey, British Columbia, flamboyantly dressed as an Indian prince.

Parmar is also credited as the mastermind of the Air India bombings. He had been under police surveillance since 1982.

Even after Indian police shot Parmar in 1992, he remained a controversial figure in British Columbia for years. Her picture was worn in BC Vaisakhi parades until 2007 until the cries against her image became too much.

Parmar and his cronies weren’t fans of the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

So when she ordered the storming of Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, in June 1984, they were furious.

In a speech given in July 1984 at Madison Square Garden in New York, Bagri preached: “Until we kill 50,000 Hindus, we will have no rest.

Several months later, Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards murdered her. They were either killed or hanged.

It appeared to the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that something was afoot in the ranks of Babbar Khalsa.

The members – including Reyat, Malik and Parmar – were under surveillance.

They were photographed together in the days leading up to the murders or caught in wiretaps – although the recordings weren’t later available for trial evidence because someone from the newly created spy agency had them erased.

Reyat, Parmar and others built at least two bombs. They tested one in the woods near Duncan under CSIS surveillance in June 1985. Officers who heard the explosion thought it was a gunshot.

It remains unclear who delivered the two bags, each traveling in a different direction and checked into Vancouver International Airport.

Airline delays caused the bomb to detonate before it reached London’s Heathrow airport, one of the busiest in the world.

Air India flights were already monitored due to Indian political issues; however, Canadian Pacific flights were unattended, so the Air India-bound bag passed without being associated with a passenger.

While X-raying the bags of Flight 182 in Toronto, the machine broke down. A portable detector of vapors and traces of explosives, the reliability of which was already in doubt, was used.

As a later investigation put it, “almost everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong.”

The plane – designated Flight 181 – then departed for Montreal and picked up other passengers. Redesignated Flight 182, it took off for London.

Two hours later it entered Irish airspace. Then it disappeared from radar screens. A search has been mounted. The first ship to arrive on the scene was the container ship Laurentian Forest, en route to Dublin from Quebec.

In a small lifeboat, seven crew members attempted to pull bodies from the water. A young sailor described holding bodies he could not pull into the boat. Helicopters arrived, depositing bodies on the decks of the ship before another helicopter transported them to a makeshift morgue ashore.

“We were surrounded by wreckage and bodies everywhere,” an Irish naval commander said.

One hundred and thirty-two bodies were recovered and transported, less than half.

Meanwhile, an international investigation had begun – one that would span continents for decades before charges were brought.

Parmar and Reyat were first arrested, the latter in England on his way to the Jaguar car factory in Coventry.

Reyat was extradited to Canada and, in May 1991, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on two counts of manslaughter and four explosives charges related to the Narita bombing.

The 2000 arrests

It was not until 2000 that further arrests took place.

Malik and Bagri were charged with conspiracy to commit the murder of passengers on two Air India planes, the murder of the 329 people on Flight 182, the attempted murder of passengers on Flight 301, the murder of the baggage handlers, conspiracy in order to bomb a plane and three counts to place a bomb aboard a plane.

And in June 2001, the RCMP arrested Reyat again — this time on charges of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in the Air India bombing.

The trial took place in a multimillion-dollar, purpose-built, bunker-like courtroom in downtown Vancouver.

When the trial opened in April 2003, the streets around the courthouse were blocked off for security.

Spectators were given an airport-style search before descending into the basement courtroom. Bulletproof glass separated the spectators from the field.

Far back, Malik and Bagri were seated in the defendants’ cabins, further protected by more bulletproof glass. Bagri had a translator. Reyat had already pleaded guilty.

His plea was to a single count of manslaughter for his role in the downing of Flight 182 and was called to testify at the trial of Malik and Bagri.

The star witness was a woman whose name remains covered by a publication ban.

She testified that she heard Malik talk about the Air India crash.

Part of the Air India story is that of Surrey journalist Tara Singh Hayer. He was the publisher of the Indo-Canadian Times of Surrey. He initially supported the Khalistan movement.

Later, he was alarmed by the movement and began speaking out against extremism.

In 1988, an assassination attempt left him in a wheelchair.

His specter, however, haunted the trial as he gave the RCMP an affidavit in 1985 saying he heard Bagri in the UK office of Des Pardes newspaper publisher Tarsem Singh Purewal talking about how the bomb is arrival at the airport.

Purewal was killed near his office in 1986.

Hayer was finally killed in 1998, shot in his garage. The murder remains unsolved.

When the judge acquitted Malik and Bagri, the courtroom filled with cries from the families.

Judge Ian Josephson concluded his lengthy decision thus: “I began by describing the horrific nature of these cruel acts of terrorism, acts that cry out for justice. However, justice is not done if people are convicted on less than the required standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite what appears to have been the best and most serious efforts of the police and the Crown, the evidence falls far short of this standard. »

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