Air India trial ends, verdict expected in March
The witnesses are not credible and the case for the Crown collapsed.
we'll ever see a case like this again in this country or perhaps the world.

VANCOUVER, Dec. 04, 2004
Canadian Press

The Air India bombing trial concluded Friday, leaving only a judge to decide the verdict of two men accused of plotting Canada's worst mass murder and one of the world's worst acts of terrorism.

Justice Ian Josephson said he will deliver his verdict next March 16.

The judge heaped praise on the court staff for their long, hard efforts throughout the marathon 18-month trial.

"The exhibits were endless, English language difficulties left many witnesses difficult to comprehend and the security issues were extreme,'' Josephson said.

"The sheriff more than met the challenge, the justice system has served the public well.''

Over the next three and a half months, Josephson must sort through testimony given on 233 court days and thousands and thousands of pages of documents.

The fate of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri hangs on the stories of a small handful of witnesses who took the stand against both men, said defence lawyer David Crossin on the courthouse steps.

They include two former female confidantes of the accused, a convicted murderer and an elderly stranger.

"The witnesses are not credible and the case for the Crown collapsed,'' Crossin said, succinctly summing up a case he called a defining moment in his career.

"It's been the most difficult from the point of view of the ramifications of it, the horrible circumstances of the families of the victims, the logistical nightmare of hundreds of witnesses.

"It was unique. I don't think we'll ever see a case like this again in this country or perhaps the world.''

His client and Bagri are charged with killing 331 people. There is almost no hard evidence incriminating them.

Even regulars who have watched the trial from the start more than a year and a half ago say it's hard to decipher who is telling the truth.<

About as simple a task as retrieving the victims of the 1985 jet bombing from their frozen ocean grave.<

Perviz Madon, a Vancouver woman who lost her husband on the ill-fated Flight 182, stood by her son after the case adjourned, confident the Crown had presented a strong case.

"Now, all we can do is hope for the best and wait it out,'' something she's exhausted with, remarking bitterly that her life has been on hold for too long.

Madon has dutifully attended even the most tedious days of the trial.

"It's important for me to be here, for my husband, for myself and for all the victims who perished in this horrendous crime,'' she said.

Geoff Gaul, a spokesman for the Crown, couldn't offer Madon any reassurance that the accused will be convicted.

"At the end of the day, the system really relies on the judge's assessment of the evidence and whether the Crown has met the burden of proof.

"We are confident in the sense that a case of substance, a case the court can now analyse and conclude the accused are guilty is now before (the judge.) Whether that happens is for the court to determine.''

Both the Crown and defence say the lover of accused mastermind Malik is the "heart'' of the case.

She stepped out of her life of hiding in the witness protection program to tell the court Malik confessed to the bombing -- confessed to organizing a plot to smuggle two bombs on Vancouver flights that would connect with and be transferred to Air India jets.

The plan, she said, was for the two explosives to detonate at the same time while the planes soared on opposite sides of the world.

One blew up on schedule, shattering Air India Flight 182, which had departed from Toronto, as it carried 329 people over the Atlantic Ocean.

According to Malik's confidante, the second was destined for a similarly packed jet but fired prematurely, killing two baggage handlers in Tokyo's Narita airport.

Years later, Malik allegedly called the pretty woman into his office to unburden himself.

She was an elementary teacher at a religious school he ran for Sikh children. She said they fell in love.

Malik called her every day and confessed that he wasn't attracted to his wife. Instead, he would ask her to accompany him to social events. Beyond that there was no evidence of a physical affair.

It would have been too dangerous for Malik, a businessman in the strict Sikh community, to take it further.

But he lavished his thoughts on her, poured his heart out and guilty soul, she said.

"He (said) `We had Air India crash. Nobody, I mean nobody, can do anything. It is all for Sikhism,''' she said Malik told her in an April 1986 heart-to-heart.

The confidante, who is among 10 protected witnesses and cannot be identified, had gone to Malik in a fit of worry for a young girl who was contemplating suicide.

She said Malik responded: "You feel sympathy for one (person) but remember, if one (person) dies for Sikhism what is the big deal about it? Three hundred twenty-eight people died. What did anyone do?''

In the spring of 1997, Malik went further, she said, and confessed that he was the one who had purchased two airline tickets to fly the bombs out of Vancouver to connect with Air India flights in Toronto and Tokyo.

The woman said she didn't want to turn on Malik.

"Malik is part of me,'' she told the court, sobbing.

"If something affects him, it affects me. If he has any problems it has to be my problem.''

But she said she was left with no choice. His partners despised her and didn't trust her. She said they convinced Malik she was a spy who would tell his secrets and that she needed to be cut loose.

He asked her to leave her job at the religious school he ran and men in Malik's inner circle allegedly warned her she would have to be killed.