IN DEPTH: AIR INDIA|
CBC News Online | March 15, 2005
The key players in the Air India trial:
Talwinder Singh Parmar
Talwinder Singh Parmar
Talwinder Singh Parmar was the alleged mastermind behind the bombing of Air India Flight 182.
He grew up in the Indian state of Punjab and came to Canada in 1970. He settled in the Burnaby, B.C., area, where he lived with his wife and three children.
Parmar was a devout Sikh and became involved with the Babbar Khalsa sect, which the Indian government considered a terrorist organization. Parmar became the Canadian leader of the sect, a group committed to the violent establishment of Khalistan, an independent Sikh homeland, in Punjab.
In 1983, he was arrested in Germany on charges of killing two police officers in Punjab on Nov. 19, 1981. Parmar was released and returned to Canada after almost a year in jail. India appealed to Canadian officials for his extradition – but the request was turned down.
But police in Canada were watching him.
On March 5, 1985, CSIS was granted a one-year wiretap warrant for the surveillance of Parmar. In the wake of the Indian government's attack on the Sikhs' Golden Temple in Amritsar, Parmar had been identified as an extremely dangerous militant.
On June 4, 1985, CSIS trailed Parmar and Inderjit Singh Reyat to Vancouver Island. The pair walked into the woods. Not long after, the CSIS agents heard a loud bang. They believed the pair were testing a gun. After Parmar and Reyat left, the agents searched the area but found nothing they believed was of consequence.
Later that month, Air India Flight 182 was brought down with a bomb, killing 329 people.
On Nov. 6, 1985, the RCMP conducted a raid on Parmar's home – as well as the homes of Inderjit Singh Reyat and three others.
Following the sweep, Parmar and Reyat were arrested on weapons, explosives and conspiracy charges. The RCMP said the arrests were part of their investigation into the Air India disaster.
The charges against Parmar were dropped due to lack of evidence.
In an interview with CBC Radio on Feb. 7, 1988, Parmar was asked if he had anything to do with the bombing of Flight 182.
"No guilty," was all he would say in English about that.
Parmar returned to India in the early 1990s and developed differences with the chief of Babbar Khalsa International, Sukhdev Singh Dassuwal. He was expelled in early 1992 and formed Babbar Khalsa International.
On Oct. 15, 1992, Indian police say, Parmar was killed in a gun battle. Months later, CBC Radio News reported that Parmar had been in police custody before the reported battle – and that Indian police had questioned him about the bombing of Flight 182.
Back in B.C., Parmar was not forgotten. In June 1996, his supporters in Surrey honoured him as a hero to the Sikh cause.
Inderjit Singh Reyat
Inderjit Singh Reyat during court proceedings at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver (CP PHOTO)
Inderjit Singh Reyat has admitted to making the bombs.
Reyat was born in India in 1952 but it was in England in the late 1960s where he embraced his Sikh faith. His family moved there when he was 13. By the time he turned 16, he took on the obligations of an observant Sikh.
A few years later, he became part of a Sikh religious group called Akhand Kirtani Jatha, which prays with drumming and hypnotic Sikh hymns.
After completing high school, he started a five-year apprenticeship program in which he learned how to be a mechanic. He got a job at Jaguar Motor Car Company in Coventry.
In 1974, he married Satnam Kaur, a woman of Indian ancestry who was born in East Africa. Shortly afterward, they moved to British Columbia, settling at first in Richmond.
He got a job at Auto Marine Electric and became a regular at a Sikh temple in Vancouver. By 1980, he had settled into a quiet life in Duncan, B.C. He had a good job, a wife and four children, and was active in the local Sikh temple.
Things changed in the spring of 1985 when he started receiving phone calls from Talwinder Singh Parmar and others he had known from the Vancouver temple. Reyat knew Parmar as a Sikh priest, not as a militant. By this time, CSIS was watching Parmar very carefully. Reyat made their list for talking with Parmar.
Reyat was arrested in the November 1985 sweep – and was the only one to face charges at the time. Reyat paid a fine of $2,000. Shortly after that, he took his family back to Coventry, England.
But he remained a key suspect. In February 1988, police in Britain arrested Reyat and charged him with making the Narita Airport bomb. He was extradited to Canada on Dec. 13, 1989. His trial began on Sept. 17, 1990, and lasted eight months. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In June 2001 Reyat was charged with the Air India deaths. In a surprising move, Reyat decided to plead guilty on Feb. 10, 2003. He was sentenced to five years in prison for manslaughter. Murder charges against him were dropped. At the time, it was believed he had worked out a deal to testify against the two other men facing charges in the Air India bombing – Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik.
Later that year, Reyat did testify – but claimed that he couldn't remember anything about the conspirators. The Crown attorney moved to treat him as a hostile witness and called his testimony "a pack of lies."
The Crown's move was denied.
Ajaib Singh Bagri
Ajaib Singh Bagri
Ajaib Singh Bagri faced eight counts including first degree murder and planting bombs on airplanes. He was acquitted on all counts.
Bagri immigrated to Canada in 1971 and worked as a forklift driver at a sawmill near Kamloops, B.C. He immediately stood out as a powerful preacher in the city's small Indo-Canadian community.
He was outspoken in his desire to see the establishment of Khalistan, a separate state for Sikhs, carved out of the Indian state of Punjab. That passion grew deeper following the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by Indian troops.
"We will kill 50,000 Hindus," Bagri told a Sikh rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City not long after the raid.
Bagri said later that he knew he had been a suspect in the Air India case since October 1985, but he denied he played any part in the bombing of Flight 182 or the explosion that killed two baggage handlers at Tokyo's Narita Airport.
He insisted that if there had been any evidence of his involvement, he would have faced charges a long time ago.
"I don't know anything," Bagri told a CBC Radio interviewer before his trial began 18 years after the bombing.
Bagri had been arrested in June 1986 with six others over a plot to plant a bomb aboard an Air India plane departing New York. But he was never charged.
Bagri was also charged with the 1988 attempted murder of Tara Singh Hayer, the publisher of the Indo-Canadian Times. The case against Bagri was stayed in January 2004. Hayer was shot and killed in 1998. His murder hasn't been solved. He would have been a witness at the Air India trial.
Ripudaman Singh Malik
Ripudaman Singh Malik
Investigators believed that Ripudaman Singh Malik was the man who bankrolled the bombings. He faced eight counts – the same charges that his co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri faced. The verdict was the same – not guilty on all counts.
Malik immigrated to Canada in 1972 and began what would be a very successful business career. He opened a boutique, selling Indian cotton clothing, and eventually built a $10-million empire, which included a hotel, warehouses and a suburban mansion.
Malik was always driven by his Sikh religion.
"Every step I take I have to consider my religion. My religion is a whole life," he told CBC Radio in 1988.
In 1981, Malik founded Satnam Trust, which funded charitable works within the Sikh community. Five years later, he helped set up Khalsa Credit Union – which has 16,000 members – and a private Sikh school, the Khalsa Surrey School. He opened a second Sikh school soon after. Both received education grants from the B.C. government.
It was at one of those schools that Malik met a woman with whom he would have a relationship. She testified at the trial that Malik had an unhappy home life and confided his secrets to her. She said she still loved him.
Malik's lawyers contended she was angry after he spurned her advances, and was seeking revenge.
Malik was also active in the Babbar Khalsa movement and was generous when it came to funding Sikh causes. He's also said to have given money to the widow of Talwinder Singh Parmar.
In 1988, he told CBC Radio that he was being watched – as were many Sikhs – in the wake of the Air India bombing.
"I think all the Sikh organizations are under surveillance," he said. "It's unfortunate, but I think that's what's happening."