Toronto, Feb 22: Convicted Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal, who kicked up a controversy over an invitation to him by the Canadian mission in India to dine with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Thursday said it was unfair to raise his "criminal conviction" for a shooting incident in 1986.
Trudeau's India visit plunged into controversy over the dinner invitation to Atwal by the Canadian High Commissioner to India. High Commissioner Nadir Patel cancelled the invite for the dinner, hosted tonight for Trudeau, while the external affairs ministry said it will "ascertain" how Atwal entered India.
Atwal told Canada's Postmedia that he did not plan to attend the dinner as he was in Mumbai on business, The Vancouver Sun reported. Atwal said it was unfair to raise his criminal conviction for shooting a visiting Punjabi cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu on Vancouver Island in 1986 given how long ago the crime occurred, the daily said.
He blamed "enemies" for circulating the photos obtained by Postmedia and stressed that he travelled to India on his own on February 11 and is not part of any official government delegation. Atwal said in a series of text messages yesterday that he was in India for Media Waves, a Surrey online radio station.
The pictures of him and Gregoire Trudeau, as well as Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, were taken at an event in Mumbai, Atwal said. At the time of the 1986 shooting, Atwal was a Sikh separatist active in the pro-Khalistan International Sikh Youth Federation. He and three others were convicted in 1987 of trying to kill Sidhu on an isolated road near Gold River.
The then Punjab minister was visiting British Colombia for his nephew's wedding. Sidhu was struck twice and survived the attempt on his life, but was later killed in India. The trial judge called the attack "an act of terrorism" and sentenced Atwal and the others to 20 years. Atwal later admitted to the parole board that he was the shooter that day, the report said.