Reyat lied 19 times at Air India trial, jurors told
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, September 9, 2010 6:16PM EDT
VANCOUVER - A convicted bomb-maker who repeatedly told the Air India trial "I don't know," "I can't remember," "I can't recall," lied 19 times during his testimony, says a Crown lawyer.
Len Doust told jurors in his opening statement that Inderjit Singh Reyat has already pleaded guilty to supplying bomb parts in the June 23, 1985 twin Air India bombings that killed 331 people.
Reyat was subpoenaed as a Crown witness in the trial of Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik, but is accused of having lied repeatedly during three days on the stand in 2003 to protect the men who were later acquitted of mass murder charges.
Reyat, who sports a long, grey beard and wore a blue turban and grey suit Thursday, arrived in court with his son Didar Reyat and two nephews.
He was charged with perjury in 2006.
Doust said Reyat met Bagri and Malik in the 1970s after meeting Talwinder Singh Parmar, an unindicted co-conspirator who is considered the mastermind of the Air India plot.
Parmar, a leader of the Babbar Khalsa, a Sikh terrorist group that is banned in Canada, was killed in a shootout with Indian police before he could be charged in the bombings.
A recording of Reyat's Sept. 2003 testimony was played in court Thursday.
In it, Reyat said Parmar asked him to make an explosive device in 1984 to help friends in India.
Reyat testified he bought material for an explosive device but that Parmar didn't provide any details about what it would be used for.
He repeatedly replied "I don't know," "I don't remember" and "I can't recall" when asked about the role of a third man who accompanied Parmar to Reyat's home in Duncan, B.C., on June 4, 1985.
Reyat said he and Parmar went into the woods to test explosive devices that day but were unsuccessful in their attempts after using items including a battery, a light bulb and gunpowder.
Reyat testified that after Parmar left, the other man stayed at his place for about a week but that he didn't know his name, where in Toronto he lived or anything about his family.
"The Crown takes serious issue with his evidence in that regard," Doust said Thursday, accusing Reyat of deliberately providing false details of the Air India conspiracy.
"He substituted false explanations. He not only failed to say what he knew, in some instances he lied."
According to his affidavit of Feb. 8, 2003, Parmar asked him to acquire material to make explosive devices that would be transported to India to blow up property such as a car, a bridge or something heavy.
"I complied with Parmar's request because I was very upset with the Indian government's treatment of the Sikh people and I wanted to assist their cause in any way that I could," Reyat said in his affidavit.
The Crown maintains the two bombs targeted government-owned Air India planes as part of a revenge tactic by British Columbia-based Sikhs who were angry about the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984.
According to the admissions of facts, two bomb-laden suitcases were loaded onto two different planes in Vancouver and one was transferred onto an Air India plane in Toronto, which was headed to London via Montreal. But Flight 182 exploded off the coast of Ireland, killing 329 passengers and crew.
The other suitcase was destined for an Air India plane heading to Bangkok via Tokyo, but the bomb exploded prematurely, killing two baggage handlers at Narita Airport.
Reyat was convicted of manslaughter in the Air India Flight 182 bombing in Feb. 2003 and received a controversial five-year sentence after already serving 10 years behind bars for the Narita explosion.