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Cablegate: Air India "Trial of the Century" Continues in Vancouver

P R 071817Z JUL 03
FM AMCONSUL VANCOUVER
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0046
INFO ALL CANADIAN POST COLLECTIVE
DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
AMCONSUL VANCOUVER

UNCLAS VANCOUVER 000819


STATE FOR WHA/CAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR PREL PTER XD CA
SUBJECT: AIR INDIA "TRIAL OF THE CENTURY" CONTINUES IN VANCOUVER

1. SUMMARY: THE TRIAL OF TWO SUSPECTS IN THE 1985 BOMBING OF
AIR INDIA FLIGHT 182, WHICH BEGAN IN FEBRUARY, CONTINUES AT THE
BRITISH COLUMBIA SUPREME COURT. THE AIR INDIA CASE IS THE
LARGEST CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION IN CANADIAN HISTORY AND THE TRIAL
IS EXPECTED TO BE UNPRECEDENTED IN LENGTH AND COMPLEXITY. IT IS
ESTIMATED IT WILL LAST WELL INTO 2004. THE RCMP HAS
INVESTIGATED THE CASE FOR 18 YEARS. ACCUSATIONS CONTINUE THAT
SECTORS OF THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT IGNORED CLUES THAT MAY HAVE
PREVENTED THE BOMBING. THE TRIAL HAS BEEN ADJOURNED UNTIL
SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2003. END SUMMARY.

2. BACKGROUND: ON JUNE 23, 1985, AIR INDIA FLIGHT 182 FROM
MONTREAL TO LONDON, CARRYING LUGGAGE LOADED IN VANCOUVER,
EXPLODED AND CRASHED INTO THE ATLANTIC OCEAN 240 KILOMETERS OFF
THE COAST OF IRELAND. ALL 329 PEOPLE ON BOARD WERE KILLED.
FIFTY-FOUR MINUTES EARLIER, A SUITCASE LOADED IN VANCOUVER ONTO
CANADIAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 003 EXPLODED IN THE AIRPORT AT NARITA,
JAPAN. THE SUITCASE WAS BEING TRANSFERRED TO AIR INDIA FLIGHT
301 TO BANGKOK AND DELHI. TWO BAGGAGE HANDLERS WERE KILLED AND
FOUR OTHER PERSONS INJURED.

3. POLICE ALLEGE VANCOUVER MILLIONAIRE RIPUDAMAN SINGH MALIK
AND AJAIB SINGH BAGRI PLANNED TO BOMB FLIGHT 182 AS PART OF A
TERRORISM CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT. BOTH MEN WERE
ALLEGED SIKH SEPARATISTS PLOTTING AGAINST THE NATIONAL AIRLINE
OF INDIA IN RETALIATION FOR THE INDIAN ARMY'S ATTACK A YEAR
EARLIER ON THE GOLDEN TEMPLE AT AMRITSAR, SIKHISM'S HOLIEST
SHRINE. THE SUSPECTED MASTERMIND WAS TALWINDER SINGH PARMAR, A
MILITANT SIKH RELIGIOUS LEADER IN VANCOUVER. HOWEVER, HE WAS
NEVER CHARGED WITH MURDER AS PUNJABI POLICE KILLED HIM IN 1992.
ON OCTOBER 27, 2000, MALIK AND BAGRI WERE ARRESTED IN RELATION
TO THE BOMBINGS; THEY WERE CHARGED JOINTLY WITH EIGHT COUNTS
INCLUDING MURDER, ATTEMPTED MURDER AND CONSPIRACY.

4. THE POSSIBILITY OF AN ATTACK ON AIR INDIA WAS WIDELY KNOWN IN
THE WEEKS BEFORE THE AIR INDIA BOMBING. MANY B.C. SIKHS HAD
CALLED FOR A BOYCOTT OF THE AIRLINE. THE VANCOUVER SUN REPORTED
IN OCTOBER 2000 THAT PARMAR MADE A FIERY SPEECH AT A SIKH TEMPLE
IN SOUTHEAST CALGARY IN THE SUMMER OF 1984 THAT AIR INDIA PLANES
WOULD "FALL FROM THE SKY." PARMAR'S MESSAGE WAS DELIVERED
PRIVATELY TO A GROUP OF ABOUT 20 WHO GATHERED IN THE TEMPLE TO
HEAR THE FOUNDER OF ONE OF THE MOST MILITANT SIKH SEPARATIST
GROUPS -- THE BABBAR KHALSA OR TIGERS OF THE TRUE FAITH.

5. THE LOCAL PRESS HAS DESCRIBED A CONTROVERSY THAT HAS
DEVELOPED BETWEEN THE ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE (RCMP) AND
CANADIAN INTELLIGENCE (CSIS) OVER THE CONDUCT OF THE
INVESTIGATION AND WHETHER OR NOT THE TRAGEDY COULD HAVE BEEN
PREVENTED. ACCORDING TO PRESS REPORTS, MONTHS BEFORE THE
BOMBING THE RCMP INVESTIGATED A TIP THAT AN AIR INDIA PLANE OUT
OF MONTREAL WOULD BE BOMBED. THE RCMP ASKED CSIS FOR A THREAT
ASSESSMENT ON ITS LIKELIHOOD. POLICE CRITICS SUGGEST THAT CSIS
IGNORED CLUES THAT COULD HAVE PREVENTED THE BOMBING. THERE HAVE
ALSO BEEN ALLEGATIONS THAT THERE WAS A CSIS MOLE WORKING WITH
THE ALLEGED BOMBING CONSPIRATORS. HOWEVER, THE RCMP AND THE CSIS
HAVE BOTH DENIED THESE ALLEGATIONS. THE AIR INDIA TRIAL IS
CERTAIN TO GENERATE CONSIDERABLE PUBLIC DEBATE, MULTIPLE
CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND ABUNDANT CRITICISM OF FORMER AND CURRENT
PUBLIC OFFICIALS AS IT PROCEEDS OVER THE COMING YEAR OR MORE.


ARREAGA

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