of victims demand federal inquiry for Air-India bombing
Vancouver, March 17, 2005
Upset relatives of some of the victims of
the 1985 Air-India Kanishka bombing are demanding a federal
inquiry into the acquittal of the two accused Indo-Canadians
by a court here.
Sushil Gupta, the son of one of those killed,
who along with others is demanding a federal inquiry into
the whole process, said: "The fact remains that our
government systems failed - and no one has been held accountable
Canadian Judge Ian Bruce Josephson declared
the two accused Indo-Canadians - Ripudaman Singh Malik and
Ajaib Singh Babri - innocent in a historic judgment that
came 20 years after the disaster.
"Today, 20 years later, we have lost
our families all over again," said another family member
of a victim.
"The government needs to be held accountable
for this betrayal..." said Lata Pada, a noted dancer
and choreographer in Greater Toronto, who lost her husband
and two children, and was present when the verdict was delivered
The British Columbia attorney general said
his office would be looking closely at the 600-page verdict
and decide whether an appeal would be filed based on that
Pronouncing his verdict, Judge Josephson called
the evidence presented by the witnesses as inconsistent
and accused Canadian security agencies of gross negligence
in investigations into the 1985 bombing of Air-India Flight
182 over Ireland that killed 329 people, and two baggage
handlers killed in Narita Airport, Japan.
Relatives of the victims gathered in the heavily
fortified British Columbia Supreme Court gave out a gasp
of disbelief as the "innocent" verdict was read
The accused, Ripudaman Singh Malik, a Vancouver
businessman, and Ajaib Singh Babri, a millworker and religious
activist, have been standing trial for two years and the
judge's surprising verdict is considered stunning with 115
witnesses testifying over these years.
Hundreds of journalists gathered from across
the world to hear the verdict in what has been called the
most expensive trial in Canadian history costing more than
$100 million and one that has thrown up questions about
the credibility of this country's security agencies and
processes including issues of inbuilt racism.
Most of the 329 victims were Indian-Canadians,
plus the two baggage handlers who were killed at Narita
Airport in Japan when a bomb was set off as they were transferring
The Judge took some 90 minutes to read out
the executive summary of the verdict rather than just deliver
the bare bones.
The verdict based on circumstantial evidence
in a 20-year long trial has thrown up questions about the
Canadian security services like the Canadian Security Intelligence
Service (CSIS) and the highly esteemed Royal Canadian Mounted
Police or RCMP.
Some of the critical circumstantial evidence
was given by the alleged girlfriend of Ripudaman Singh Malik,
who is now under the Witness Protection plan. The judge
did not put store on her testimony and questioning and he
characterized the witnesses' testimony as "inconsistent"
and said what the CSIS had done was "unacceptable".
Kim Bolan, longtime journalist for the Vancouver
Sun, who covered the Air India bombing story from its inception
and has followed families as they recovered from the tragedy,
told CBC she also came to the court looking for justice
just like the families.
She had written about Malik even before he
was held for the crimes, relating to his businesses, and
had received death threats several times. "As a result
I felt very strongly that I had to continue. ... So I wanted
to be there every day to show that I was not intimidated."
One journalist was killed while reporting
Reports of Canada's security agency, CSIS
destroying reams of taped evidence and other bungles, as
well as allegations of a power struggle between the RCMP
and CSIS have surfaced over the years, further reducing
the credibility of the process of prosecuting those accused.
Malik and Bagri stood accused of conspiracy
and mass murder, of placing two bombs in two planes, one
of them bound for Mumbai from Vancouver via Toronto, Montreal
and London. The act was considered a revenge for the storming
of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by Indian security forces
under orders from then prime minister Indira Gandhi, herself
murdered by one of her security guards in 1984.
Another accused, Inderjit Singh Reyat, an
electrician earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was
handed a five-year jail term on top of the 10 years he was
already serving given on charges of manslaughter and explosives
charges on the Narita airport bomb explosion that killed
two baggage handlers there.
Bagri's daughter read out a statement on behalf
of her father in which he said he acknowledged that he was
an activist back in 1985 but that he had nothing to do with
the Air India bombing. Malik's family released a statement
saying the judge had handed down a correct decision and
that the Malik family sympathizes with the victims' families.