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'Racism did not delay Kanishka probe'

Canadian police reject charges that the delay in Kanishka bombings probe was because majority of 329 victims were of Indian-origin.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Toronto
UPDATED ON MAY 19, 2007 02:07 PM IST

Rejecting charges that racism was a factor behind delay in probe into the 1985 bombing of Air India's Kanishka flight that left 329 people dead, a senior Canadian police officer has said they were 'absolutely dedicated' to solving the case.

Gary Bass, Deputy Commissioner of British Columbia Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and a member of Air India Task Force responsible for investigation into the tragedy said: "I have never seen from the RCMP perspective any hint of racism."

He said he ,'does not believe racism was a factor in the way his force investigated the 1985 Air India bombing.'

"The RCMP members that I have talked to who were involved in 1985 (case) wanted nothing more than to solve this crime. They all worked just horrendous hours and were deeply affected by it," Bass said.

"And certainly that has been the case with the Air India Task Force that I was involved in later, just absolute dedication to solving the case," he was quoted as saying by 'Montreal Gazette'.

He was commenting on Friday on the question of race, which has been mentioned several times at the Air India Inquiry Commission investigating the terrorist plot, given that the majority of the 329 victims were Canadians of Indian- origin.

"My biggest concern with the inquiry is that it addresses the families' issues. It is really a roller coaster ride for them now because they hear ostensibly what are very startling information coming out day-by-day and then the next day it changes."

Some family members have been asking why some of the material coming out at the inquiry has not come out before, even during the criminal trial.

Bass was in charge of the task force during the period that two men - Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri - were charged, tried and later acquitted in the bombing. The task force is continuing other areas of investigation in the bombing, which remains Canada's worst mass murder.

Bass is expected to be a witness at the inquiry, headed by Commissioner John Major, sometime in the coming months. He was reluctant to comment at length on some of the public revelations that there were dozens of advance warnings about the sabotage of Air India, including testimony from Ontario Lt Gov James Bartleman that he saw an advance threat against the flight on the weekend of June 22-23, 1985.

"There haven't been any big surprises for me in terms of what has come out," Bass said. "There's been a couple of things that were said that have surprised me, but the fact that they were said didn't (surprise me) because that seems to be the history of Air India."

Prominent Vancouver lawyer Les Mackoff said it is not surprising that information is being disclosed publicly at the inquiry that would not have been part of the criminal case.

"The rules of admissibility at trial would govern what would be admitted and what wouldn't be admitted. It has to be proof against an accused person," Mackoff said.

"You have to lead evidence that is probative of the issues in a criminal case, so these sorts of 'I told somebody at some point or I had heard something' is not necessarily evidence. There are other similar examples where not all the evidence or information that exists becomes part of the court proceedings," he said.

"In a jury trial on a first degree murder case, there could be a complete confession that an accused person gives that is ruled inadmissible and the public would never hear about the confession until a case has been decided," he said.

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