Judge fixes trial date on Air India bombing anniversary, dismays victimsfamilies

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Vancouver (Canada), May 13 (ANI): A decision by a Supreme Court judge in the Canadian province of British Columbia to schedule the start of the perjury trial of 1985 Air India bomb accused Inderjit Singh Reyat for June 22, the 25th anniversary of the attack, has dismayed the families of the victims involved.

"The families won't be very happy. "They should have kept it away from the anniversary," the Globe and Mail quoted Bal Gupta, a spokesperson for the victims' families for several years, as saying.

Gupta was speaking after Mr. Justice Mark McEwan rescheduled the seven-day trial of Reyat when his lawyer told the court that he was involved in another trial that was continuing longer than he had anticipated and he could not be in court for the perjury trial on Monday.

Lata Pada, who had a husband and two daughters on Flight 182, said the anniversary was important to honour the memory of those onboard. Her mind will be on matters other than Mr. Reyat, she said.

But she still felt the sting of events. "It is hard to believe it has been 25 years, and we are still at a point where a criminal case against Mr. Reyat is still playing out," she said.

Rattan Mall, the editor of a well-established Indo-Canadian newspaper, said bringing Reyat to trial before a jury around the time of the anniversary was patently unfair to him.

"There is going to be a whole lot of emotions whipped up around that time. You cannot expect [Mr.] Reyat to be viewed fairly. The perception of justice should be there, it is not just justice. ... you got to be fair to everyone," he said.

Reyat faces charges of perjury for allegedly testifying falsely in 2003 at a trial that acquitted B.C. residents Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri of charges of murder related to the Air India disaster.

The Crown alleges that Reyat told the court under oath, with the intent to mislead, that he did not know or recall details of the alleged conspiracy, beyond a few matters. The prosecution alleges he lied 27 times during his testimony.

Jury selection for the perjury trial was to begin next Monday.

Two bombs were placed on planes at Vancouver International Airport on June 22, 1985, by a group of Vancouver-based Sikh militants fighting for an independent homeland carved out of India.

The bombs exploded hours later, on June 23, on opposite sides of the world.

One of them went off at Tokyo's Narita airport, killing two baggage handlers. The second bomb exploded about an hour later aboard Air India Flight 182 over the Atlantic Ocean, killing 329 people. (ANI)

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