Air India bomb-maker released from halfway house; now considered 'low risk' by National Parole Board
'It's absolutely ridiculous,' says terror expert, pointing out that Reyat never broke his silence
The only person convicted in the 1985 Air India bombing has been released from a halfway house and is now free to live where he chooses, according to a new decision from the Parole Board of Canada.
Inderjit Singh Reyat is currently serving a seven-year sentence after being convicted of perjury in 2010 for repeatedly lying during his testimony at a trial into the bombing deaths of 331 people. The parole board says that resulted in his co-accused not being convicted in Canada's worst mass murder.
In January 2016, Reyat was given statutory release after serving two-thirds of his sentence and was expected to be closely monitored at a halfway house at an undisclosed location for another 18 months.
"The fact that he is still holding back, it's absolutely ridiculous that the parole board will let him out," said André Gerolymatos, co-director of terrorism, risk and security studies at Simon Fraser University. "You have to wonder what the parole board is smoking."
Nearly 32 years ago, Reyat bought the dynamite, detonators and batteries that took the lives of 329 people aboard Air India Flight 182, which was ripped apart by a suitcase bomb off the coast of Ireland in 1985.
A second bomb-laden suitcase, destined for another Air India flight, exploded prematurely and killed two baggage handlers at Tokyo's Narita airport.
Reyat, a mechanic from Punjab, then living in Duncan, B.C., was a member of an extremist group fighting for a Sikh homeland. He was first convicted for building the Narita bomb and later pleaded guilty to manslaughter at the Air India trial.
His co-accused, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, were acquitted in March 2005 of murder and conspiracy charges in the two bombings.
Reyat hasn't broken his silence
Reyat has never told the court what he knew about the bomb plot and a 2013 psychologist's assessment said he presented a "relatively high risk" for future group-based violence and showed "a lack of true empathy and remorse," according to the parole board.
At the time, the board imposed several conditions on his release, noting he had been "involved in terrorist activity that took the lives of 331 people."
Reyat went from high risk to low risk
But a year later, the parole board paints of picture of a reformed extremist.
Despite convictions for manslaughter, possession of restricted weapons and explosives, and bomb-making, his case-management team now considers him to low risk, with one caveat.
"If there were a threat to your Sikh cause, your risk for future group-based violence is high," the parole board decision reads.
The board based its latest decision on the fact that Reyat appears to have disassociated himself from extremists and has denounced violence. It says he attends psychological counselling, is "highly accountable" in reporting his whereabouts and regularly spends time with his family.
"The fact that he kept silent all these years, I don't think he deserves to be out," said Gerolymatos, who doesn't believe a parole officer can adequately monitor Reyat's activities in the community.
It also sends a bad message out there to potential terrorists, that even when you're caught, you can keep your mouth shut, lie and we'll still let you out.- André Gerolymatos, SFU professor
"It also sends a bad message out there to potential terrorists, that even when you're caught, you can keep your mouth shut, lie and we'll still let you out."
But a parole board spokesperson said if Reyat were to show any ties to extremism, he could go back to jail.
Reyat will be watched, officials say
"If he were to start espousing those beliefs again, that would become a concern to those supervising him. And they could intervene by recommending he go back to the halfway house or they can even recommend his release be revoked, which would mean a return to prison," said Patrick Storey, regional spokesperson for the Parole Board of Canada.
Gerolymatos served two years on Canada's Advisory Council on National Security and says the Khalistan movement is still alive in Canada, and Reyat will be free to help revive it once his sentence expires in August 2018.
"He's going to be the poster child for that movement … The fact that he got out, the fact that he is able to meet people, go and give speeches, raise money for the cause — that might just reboot the movement."