Air India perjurer Inderjit Singh Reyat granted release to halfway house
Reyat was charged with perjury in 2006 for repeatedly lying during his testimony at trial
The only person convicted in the 1985 Air India bombings has been granted statutory release from prison to a halfway house, prompting shock and disappointment from the families of the victims.
Inderjit Singh Reyat was charged with perjury in 2006 for repeatedly lying during his testimony at the trial into the bombing deaths of 331 people, mostly Canadians.
Reyat was found guilty in 2010 and sentenced to a record nine years in prison, or seven years and seven months after accounting for time served.
Under the law, offenders must be granted statutory release after they have served two-thirds of their sentence.
Parole Board of Canada spokesman Patrick Storey said Reyat must abide by several conditions as part of his release, including not possessing any extremist propaganda or possessing any components used to build an explosive device.
He is also not allowed to contact victims' families or anyone who is believed to hold extremist views. He will be monitored by a parole officer and must complete counselling.
Reyat is set to serve the rest of his sentence, which ends in August 2018, at a halfway house. Storey said he could not disclose the location of the residence due to privacy legislation.
If Reyat breaches any of the conditions, he can be sent back to prison, Storey said.
A parole officer could also recommend that Reyat be released early from the halfway house.
'Unending, hurtful wound' for families
Families of the victims said they were shocked to hear the news about his release.
"It's upsetting. It's always been upsetting.… It's a saga that never ends," said Renee Saklikar, a Vancouver-based poet whose aunt and uncle were killed in the bombing, leaving behind an orphaned boy.
Saklikar said she was disappointed to have heard the news about Reyat through the media, instead of directly from the parole board.
"It's an unending, hurtful wound. You don't want to live your life through that kind of pain," she said. "This really challenges your belief in a just society. Days like today are hard."
She added her thoughts go out to people like her nephew who will never see his parents again.
"My thoughts are always primarily with the families, and my heart goes out to all of them. This person gets to be with his family, and we'll never get to be with our lost ones."
'Relatively high risk' for violence
In the reasons for its decision to impose a residency requirement on Reyat's parole, the board said it took into consideration his involvement in the Air India bombing, including the fact that his perjury led the co-accused to not be convicted of a criminal offence.
The parole board documents also note Reyat was associated with a terrorist organization.
"Your affiliation is currently identified as 'inactive while incarcerated although not disaffiliated and this affiliation has not been terminated,'" wrote the board.
The board goes on to explain that a psychologist's assessment in 2013 showed Reyat presented a "'relatively high' risk for future group based violence" and "a lack of 'true empathy and remorse' for the victims of the bombings."
Plane ripped apart
Passengers aboard Flight 182 had boarded from Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal before heading to New Delhi on June 23, 1985. The plane was ripped apart by a suitcase bomb off the coast of Ireland.
All 329 people aboard the aircraft died. The Crown maintained the suitcase was loaded onto a plane leaving Vancouver's airport before being transferred to a connecting flight in Toronto.
A second bomb-laden suitcase, destined for another Air India flight, exploded prematurely and killed two baggage handlers in Tokyo.
Ripudaman Singh Malik of Vancouver and Ajaib Singh Bagri of Kamloops, B.C., were acquitted in March 2005 of murder and conspiracy charges in the two bombings connected with state-owned Air India.
The Crown maintained they were seeking revenge for the Indian government's 1984 raid of the Golden Temple as it tried to flush out armed militants from Sikhism's holiest shrine in Amritsar.
Parole Board of Canada decision on Inderjit Singh Reyat (PDF KB)
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With files from CBC and Kamil Karamali