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Kanishka bombing convict faces fresh jail term

Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only person jailed for the 1985 Air India bombing, is set for another jail term for perjury next week.

world Updated: Jan 28, 2008 14:00 IST

Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only person jailed for the 1985 Air India bombing, is set for another jail term for perjury next week.

Reyat completes a five-year jail term on February 9 for his role in blowing up the Kanishka flight from Toronto to New Delhi on June 23, 1985, killing all 329 people on board.

Before walking out free, he was to reportedly go on trial on February 4 for perjury during the trial of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri in 2003. Instead, he will now plead guilty to perjury and face a maximum jail term of 14 years.

Before this, he had spent 10 years in jail, from 1991 to 2001, for his role in making the bomb that killed two baggage handlers at Japan's Narita Airport the same day Kanishka was blown off mid-air.

That bomb too was meant for another Air India flight from Tokyo to Bombay. But because of delayed flight, the bomb went off at Narita Airport.

During the trial of Malik and Bagri, Reyat appeared as a prosecution witness in 2003. But he lied 27 times during his five-day testimony, provoking the judge to call him "an unmitigated liar".

Indian-born Reyat, 55, who was raised in Britain and moved to Canada in the mid-1970s, was roped in the Air India bombing by plot mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar to avenge the Indian government's Operation Bluestar against Sikh extremists.

Being an electrician, he was used by Parmar to test the bombs intended for Air India.

While testing these bombs in the jungles of Vancouver Islands, the two and another person referred to as 'Mr X' were watched by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Police picked up Reyat immediately after the Air India bombing. On his release without being charged, he went back to England in 1986.

However, when his role was proved in the Tokyo bomb blast, he was extradited, tried and jailed for 10 years.

On his release in 2001, he entered into a bargain plea for pleading guilty to charges of manslaughter in the Kanishka bombing. This got him another five years in jail from February 2003.

During this incarceration, he appeared as a prosecution witness during the trial of Malik and Bagri but lied and invited perjury charges. Malik and Bagri walked free after the trial.

The perjury indictment lists that Reyat lied when he told the court that he didn't know Parmar was a terrorist who led the Babbar Khalsa and that he had no knowledge of the Sikh problem in India.

He also lied when he said that Parmar had asked him "to make one explosive device" while he actually made two that blew off Kanishka and killed the baggage handlers in Tokyo.

Reyat also lied when he testified that he didn't know 'Mr X' who was with him while testing the bombs. In fact, identifying 'Mr X' is now the focus of Canadian investigating agencies.

The Canadian Royal Mounted Police and prosecutors have informed the relatives of the Air India victims about perjury charges against Reyat.

"Yes, they contacted us, and that is all we have to say. We will say more when something happens," Bal Gupta, who lost his wife and founded the Air India Victim Families Association, told IANS.

Toronto's classical dancer Lata Pada, who lost her husband and two daughters, also said she was contacted about Reyat's guilty plea.

"There is not much we can say at this stage. We will have to wait," she said.