Man told blatant lies at Air India trial: court
Published Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:31PM EDT
VANCOUVER - A convicted bomb maker who testified at the Air India trial of two men charged with mass murder told blatant and silly lies to protect the accused, mislead the court and save himself from retribution, a Crown lawyer says.
In his closing argument Wednesay, Len Doust told jurors that Inderjit Singh Reyat must be convicted of perjury because the evidence he provided about his role in two Air India bombings that killed 331 people defied common sense.
"He knows exactly what he was asked to do and what he did do but he didn't want to tell us," Doust told jurors.
Reyat testified in September 2003 at the trial of Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudman Singh Malik, who were later acquitted.
Reyat was charged with perjury in 2006. He had already been convicted of manslaughter for his role in building a suitcase bomb that exploded at Tokyo's Narita Airport, where two baggage handlers died before the baggage was loaded onto an Air India plane.
That June 23, 1985 blast occurred about an hour before Air India Flight 182 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing 329 people who'd left Montreal for London.
Jurors at Reyat's perjury trial in B.C. Supreme Court heard a recording of his 2003 testimony at the Air India trial, when Doust cross-examined him for three days.
Reyat's lawyer, Ian Donaldson, suggested his client appeared evasive because he was sick of Doust questioning him and was merely "blowing him off," but that doesn't mean he deliberately set out to deceive anyone.
Doust told jurors that Reyat clearly contradicted himself repeatedly as he deflected questions and tried to minimize his involvement in the bombings.
The Crown maintains Reyat lied about 19 particular issues such as the reason for his acquiring bomb-making material after a leader of a Sikh separatist group asked him to construct an explosive device about a year before the Air India bombings.
Reyat faces one count of perjury based on the 19 lies the Crown alleges he told. Doust told jurors they can convict Reyat if they find that Reyat lied on any of those 19 occassions and the jurors don't all have to agree on each issue.
The Crown said one of Reyat's most obvious lies was when he insisted he didn't know what three clocks he'd bought could be used for before eventually saying they could time an explosive device.
"This is a disaster of epic proportions, maybe the single-worst disaster in this country," Doust said, adding that by the time Reyat testified at the Air India trial, he'd had more than a decade to think about his actions while he was imprisoned for making the Narita bomb and knew exactly what the clocks were used for.
Reyat also testified that Talwinder Singh Parmar, a leader of the Babbar Khalsa, asked him to construct the explosive device but that he didn't know how it would be used.
However, in his affidavit of February 2003, he said Parmar told him the explosive device would be needed to blow up a bridge or something heavy in India.
During his trial testimony, he said he lied to a police officer about what would be done with the articles he was to collect and no longer remembered what the material would be used for.
Doust suggested it would be impossible for people to forget why they were collecting articles to make a bomb.
"How many times in life do people get asked to make explosive devices? Would anyone ever forget such a request? Particularly if they went about acting on it?" Doust said.
"I'm going to suggest to you that the statement that he couldn't recall what he was asked to do was an obvious and patent lie," he told the nine women and three men on the jury.
Reyat testified he never asked Parmar why he was being asked to build an explosive device in 1984, but Doust said that doesn't make sense.
However, Donaldson said Reyat was merely a "soldier" who was doing what the "general" told him.
"Soldiers don't question the leader's decisions, they do as they're asked," he said.
"He's a mechanic working in Duncan. He is not, in the vernacular, a rocket scientist."
During his testimony, Reyat said he never knew the name of a man who stayed at his home for almost a week in early June 1985 and took over bomb-making duties after Reyat failed to satisfy Parmar with a device Reyat had constructed.
Doust said it's implausible for Reyat to forget the man's name, but Donaldson said his client could have made up a name.
"It's much simpler if I'm a liar to create a false name and stick with it."
Donaldson said Reyat had referred to the name Bhaji, although the Crown kept calling the mystery man "Mr. X."
Doust said Reyat also lied about buying dynamite about a month before the bombings, saying he intended to blow up stumps near his home where there weren't any stumps, and then said he kept the explosive to use later.
Reyat repeatedly said "I don't know" to questions and then got caught in his own lies as he tried to stick to the information he'd sworn in the affidavit, Doust said.
"He didn't want to implicate himself any further than what was in his affidavit in order to get a manslaughter plea."
Reyat served a controversial five-year sentence for his role in the Air India Flight 182 bombing.