British Columbia

Air India trial perjurer Reyat apologizes

The only man ever convicted in the Air India bombings has offered an apology to the families of the 331 victims of the crimes.
Inderjit Singh Reyat is to be sentenced in January for a third time in connection with the 1985 Air India and Narita airport bombings. ((CBC))
The only man ever convicted in the Air India bombings has offered an apology to the families of the 331 victims of the crimes.

Inderjit Singh Reyat stood in court and appeared to wipe away tears as his lawyer read a letter of apology Thursday at Reyat's sentencing hearing in Vancouver on a conviction for perjury.

"I sincerely apologize to each and every victim," Reyat said in the statement. "My heart has always gone out to those who perished."

'A group of individuals got together and for a political purpose decided they had the right to execute 331 people.'—B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan

Reyat, who will be sentenced Jan. 7, faces up to 14 years in prison for lying during the 2003 Air India trial of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, who were acquitted of masterminding the bomb plot.

In his statement, Reyat also mentioned his Sikh faith, saying it's gotten him through the past 25 years — much of that time spent in prison — and that he prays for the victims and their families.

2 previous convictions

Reyat was sentenced to five years in prison for manslaughter in connection to his role in acquiring bomb parts used in the explosive device that brought down an Air India Boeing 747.

Flight 182 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland after leaving Montreal on June 23, 1985, killing 329 people.

Reyat also served a 10-year sentence for a blast the same day at Tokyo's Narita airport, where two baggage handlers died when a bomb-laden suitcase exploded before it could be transported to another Air India plane, which was carrying 250 passengers.

The Crown has maintained that British Columbia-based Sikhs hatched a plot to take revenge against government-owned Air India after the Indian army stormed Sikhism's holiest shrine in Amritsar in June 1984 in an effort to oust Sikh separatists.

The Crown is seeking a sentence near the maximum.

Reyat's behaviour cited

Reyat's lawyer, Ian Donaldson, said that apart from his convictions for his role in the two explosions, his client's behaviour has been impeccable and he deserves a lenient sentence as a decent human being who otherwise doesn't have a pattern of anti-social behaviour.

"You don't need to be anti-social," B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan responded.

"What happened here is a group of individuals got together and for a political purpose decided they had the right to execute 331 people, and but for an accident of timing would have taken down another 250 people."

Donaldson said Reyat didn't know about such a plan and didn't take part in it.

Wreckage of Air India flight 182 lies on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, more than two kilometres below the surface, before it was recovered for forensic analysis. ((Associated Press))
"He pled guilty to manslaughter," McEwan said.

Reyat's lack of remorse for crimes that killed so many people cannot be overlooked as something that's a snapshot from 1985, the judge said.

"It's a movie that continues to run," McEwan told the court, adding Reyat has refused to make amends even 25 years later.

"There's something he can still deliver," he said. "Certainly there's an attitudinal problem here."

The court has heard the longest sentence for perjury ever handed out in Canada is six years, to an Alberta man.

With files from the CBC's Priya Ramu

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