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Kanishka inquiry may gain access to secret documents

Access to secret documents is crucial to the proceedings when the probe resumes.

india Updated: Mar 24, 2007 11:51 IST

The inquiry into the 1985 Air-India bombing that killed 329 people may now gain access to secret Canadian documents that are crucial to the proceedings when the probe resumes next month.

Justice John Major, head of the commission that is conducting the inquiry was briefed by counsel Mark Freiman about the progress made in getting the government to produce the documents, the commission said in a release on Friday.

"Freiman is confident that the necessary evidence will be available to begin stage two of the Inquiry," the release said.

In February, Major threatened to shut down the inquiry unless a dispute about how much evidence will be made public by the government was resolved. He called for a progress report on the matter on March 26.

"In view of the update on the production of documents, the status report previously announced for March 26 is unnecessary," the release said.

The commission will resume hearing evidence on April 30 to provide "a reasonable amount of time" for counsel of the families and other parties to review the documents and prepare for the hearings, it said.

Major has said repeatedly that he wants most of the documents to be accessible to the families who lost loved ones and to the media, meaning that papers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canada Security Intelligence Service would have to be made public.

Certain documents have been released to the commission with entire pages and sections "black-lined" or censored.

Government lawyers have argued that some documents should be kept from the public for continuing security concerns and that thousands must be vetted before public release.

Major and his staff have unlimited access to call documents, but the government gets to decide which parts of the documents can be released publicly or can even be referred to when witnesses are questioned.

The long-delayed probe is looking into the worst mass murder in Canada's history that killed 329 passengers aboard Air India Flight 182, which exploded over the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Ireland.

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