(AFP) – Sep 18, 2010
VANCOUVER — The only person ever convicted in the 1985 Air India bombings was found guilty of one count of perjury Saturday in this western Canadian city.
Inderjit Singh Reyat, a Sikh immigrant to Canada, already served more than 15 years in prison for manslaughter and making the bombs in the so-called Air India case of June 1985, when two suitcase bombs were planted on planes leaving Vancouver.
One exploded at Japan's Narita airport, killing two baggage handlers as they transferred cargo onto an Air India jet. The second tore apart Air India flight 182 as it neared the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 people aboard.
The downing of Flight 182 was the second-worst airline attack in history, behind the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Prosecutors argued that Canadian Sikh extremists had sought to bring down Air India jets in retaliation for the Indian government's June 1984 attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sikhism's holiest shrine.
Reyat, 58, spent 10 years prison in Britain for his role in the Narita bombing, then five more years prison in Canada. He was released on bail in July 2008 to await trial for perjury.
On Saturday a jury delivered the verdict after two days of deliberating over 19 charges that Reyat lied while testifying in the mass murder trial of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, the alleged bombers who were later acquitted for lack of evidence.
Reyat was charged with murder alongside Malik and Bagri. But in 2003, just months before the trial began, Reyat pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, admitting his role in helping to build the bombs.
When Reyat was called as a Crown witness, he claimed he could not remember details of the 1985 bomb plot, nor the name of one of the men involved, which led British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson to call him "an unmitigated liar."
In 2005 Josephson acquitted Malik and Bagri in the case.
Reyat remains in custody and is scheduled to be sentenced on November 17. The maximum possible sentence for perjury is 14 years, although maximum sentences are rarely imposed in Canada.
The issue of Sikh separatism in India, which prosecutors said was behind the Canadian conspiracy, faded shortly after the bombings, especially after India elected a Sikh prime minister in 2004.
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