Gurpreet Singh: Inderjit Singh Reyat should tell the truth
Inderjit Singh Reyat, the lone person convicted in the 1985 terrorist attacks against two Air India planes, faces another jail term. This time, it's for lying under oath. He should tell the truth to bring closure to the victims' families and himself.
Reyat, who has been convicted twice in the June 23, 1985 bombings that killed 331 people, was found guilty of perjury in B.C. Supreme Court today (September 18). The jury's verdict did not bring answers that the victims' families are looking for.
Reyat was accused of lying 19 times in court testimony in 2003 during the Air India bombing trial. It ended in 2005 with the acquittals of two suspects, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri.
Reyat, who has already wasted 15 years of his life in jail, was charged with perjury in 2006. He now awaits sentencing and could face up to 14 years imprisonment.
He was first convicted in 1991 and sentenced to 10 years for the Narita Airport blast that killed two baggage handlers in Japan.
In February 2003, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the bombing of Air India Flight 182 over the Irish Sea, which killed all 329 people aboard. For that, he received a five-year jail term.
A Sikh separatist group, the Babbar Khalsa, was blamed for targeting the two Air India flights. Reyat had made the bomb at the behest of Talwinder Singh Parmar, a Babbar Khalsa leader and the alleged mastermind of the Air India conspiracy. He died in a staged encounter at the hands of the Punjab Police in 1992.
Reyat did not reveal the name of a mysterious suspect who had accompanied him and Parmar to a bomb-testing site prior to the terror attack. The unknown man came to be known as "Mr. X" during the Air India trial.
Although he stayed with Reyat in his Duncan home for a week, Reyat maintained that he did not know his name.
Reyat had also claimed that before Mr. X left his home, he took down his phone number, but did not know a name to ask for if he chose to make such a call.
The Canadian legal system has given Reyat a long rope. Had he been in Punjab, he would have met the same fate as Parmar.
Here, he was not tortured or forced to make a confession, which is a very common practice among police investigators in India. Besides, he also received a fair trial.
For 329 deaths, he got five years imprisonment. (A previous jury was disbanded following allegations of racist comments made by one of the members of the panel.)
Instead of throwing away more years of his life in jail and playing with the emotions of the victims' families, he should now confess the name and the motives of Mr. X. Being a devout Sikh who was seen outside the courtroom listening to prayers on an iPod, he should show some genuine remorse by telling the truth for the sake of humanity.
After all, the daily prayer of a devout Sikh ends with the verse Tere Bhane Sarbat Da Bhala. ("Lord may everyone in the world prosper.")
Why then should someone who intended to bring destruction be allowed to get away?
Gurpreet Singh is Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings.