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Air India bomb-maker charged with perjury

Convicted bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat was charged Friday with perjury arising from his testimony in the Air India bombing case.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Convicted bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat was charged Friday with perjury arising from his testimony in the Air India bombing case.

Reyat pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 1985 Air India bombing, which killed 329 people and was Canada's worst case of mass murder.

Air India Flight 182 from Montreal to London, originating in Vancouver, exploded and crashed off Ireland on June 23, 1985. An hour earlier, a bomb in baggage intended for another Air India flight exploded in the Narita airport, killing two baggage handlers.

Reyat was sentenced in February 2003 to five years in jail, after he agreed to testify against the other key suspects. He is eligible for day parole and will attend a hearing on March 3.

Reyat has already served a 10-year sentence for manslaughter and explosives charges related to the bombing at Tokyo's Narita airport.

He was called as a witness in the murder and conspiracy trial of two other Indian-born Sikhs, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri. The prosecution maintained that the bombing was an act of revenge by Sikh separatists for a deadly 1984 raid by Indian forces on the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the holiest site of their religion.

Justice: Reyat ‘an unmitigated liar’
Malik and Bagri were acquitted last March when Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson ruled that there was not enough evidence against them. He called several key witnesses unreliable and dismissed Reyat as "an unmitigated liar."

Reyat is scheduled to appear in British Columbia Supreme Court on March 27. If found guilty of perjury, he would face up to an additional 14 years in prison.

"This is an example of the determination of both the police and the prosecution service to reach the bottom of the issues involved in the murder of 329 individuals on Flight 182, and the murder of two individuals at Narita airport," prosecution spokesman Geoffrey Gaul told reporters outside the courtroom.

The indictment said Reyat had committed perjury "by swearing falsely and with intent to mislead the court that he did not know or recall any of the details of the alleged conspiracy."

Among the 27 issues in the indictment, prosecutors allege Reyat lied when he testified he didn't know that Talwinder Singh Parmar was head of the terrorist group Babbar Khalsa, or that the extremists advocated the creation of a Sikh state.

Parmar killed by police in 1992
Investigators believe the Air India bombing was masterminded by Parmar, who was killed by Indian police in 1992.

Reyat, who had made a plea deal to testify against Bagri and Malik, infuriated the court when he took the stand and claimed to know nothing about anyone or anything.

"Mr. Reyat acknowledged that if he did not give truthful testimony, he could be prosecuted for perjury," said Gaul, who would not comment on whether further perjury charges against other witnesses were expected.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police continue to investigate the bombing, which was the worst case of airline terrorism in history prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.