In an interesting twist to the Air India Kanishka bombing case Friday, former Canadian health minister Ujjal Dosanjh said he will challenge acquitted suspect Ripudaman Singh Malik in court to answer direct questions about his role in the plot that killed 329 people.
Malik was accused in the bombing of the Air India flight 182 from Canada to Delhi near the Irish coast June 23, 1985, killing all 329 people on board. The bombing was blamed on Khalistani extremists seeking to avenge the storming of the Golden Temple by the Indian army in 1984.
But Malik and fellow suspect Ajaib Singh Bagri were acquitted in 2005 after a lengthy criminal trial.
However, Malik faced no questions during his criminal trial as he had the right to remain silent. But he now faces direct questions about his alleged role in the bombing plot following a civil lawsuit he filed against Dosanjh earlier this week.
In his lawsuit, Malik has alleged that Dosanjh made damaging statements against him during the recent campaign for parliament elections.
"After I was acquitted, some members of the press and public continued to believe I was guilty. I have tried not to respond every time someone said I was guilty. However, I cannot allow my name to continue to be harmed,'' Malik said in a statement after filing the lawsuit against Dosanjh.
But Dosanjh responded Friday, saying that a civil trial has actually offered him an opportunity to pin down Malik fro his role in the bombing plot.
"The (civil) trial of this action (Malik's lawsuit) will shed more light on how this heinous crime, originating from Canadian soil, was planned and carried out - killing 329 Canadians. My further hope is, that in the process, the families of the victims of Air India may achieve at least partial closure to this tragedy,'' Dosanjh said in a statement.
He said, "Mr. Malik did not testify in the Air India criminal trial as he was able to hide behind the right to remain silent. However, now, in this civil trial, Mr. Malik will be forced to answer all relevant questions.
"For the first time, Mr. Malik will have no immunity from being questioned in court about his relationship to the Air India bombing or the perpetrators themselves.
"I will challenge Mr. Malik every step of the way with questions regarding the extent of his involvement with and connection to Air India and the known conspirators.''
Dosanjh lost his South Vancouver seat in this Sunday's parliamentary election.