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Kanishka: Kin protest closure of case

Ajit Jain in Toronto | May 05, 2005 15:58 IST

Family members of those who died aboard Air-India's Kanishka are disappointed over the British Columbia Crown Attorneys' decision not to file an appeal against the acquittal of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri.

The two had been charged with first degree murder of 329 people aboard Air-India flight 182, which blew up near the Irish coast June 23, 1985.

At a press briefing in Vancouver April 4, Geoffrey Gaul, spokesman of the Attorney-General's office, said they decided not to appeal the acquittals in the Air India bombing case because they had no chance of winning a new trial.

Justice Ian Bruce Josephson's judgment was based on the fact that he didn't believe the evidence of crown witnesses, and it couldn't win an appeal because the judge had made no error in law.

'The trial judge's judgment is profoundly fact driven,' Gaul told the media. 'An appellate court will not interfere in such findings.'

"We will start losing confidence in our Court system when you have witnesses here and they were not believed and the judge believed drug dealers. It shows our legal system is broken down when we have to deal with the terrorist cases," Dave Hayer, Member of British Columbia Legislature, told rediff.com.

"So, we have to have a public inquiry to ensure the system is fare for the society as well as for the victims rather than the system protecting the criminal element."

"We are shocked but not surprised that they (crown attorneys) are not going forward with the appeal," Air-India Victims' Families Association spokesman Hari Venkatacharia told this reporter.

'We wanted the accused to be hanged'

"Obviously Judge Ian Bruce Josephson did a very thorough job. The case of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was based on circumstantial evidence alone.

"Sadly for Canadians there are still mass murderers hanging out somewhere. That is the biggest concern today. What else will they do on the Canadian soil? Why is the government not taking action to hold the public inquiry immediately to get to the bottom of the case, to the bottom of the truth and what's the government afraid of?" he asked.

Victims families were earlier advised through an e-mail message by the Crown attorneys that they 'have conducted an exhaustive review, and have come to the 'difficult decision' that there are no grounds on which the crown could launch an appeal.

'At the core of the crown's decision not to appeal is the fact that any appeal would have to be based on an error or errors of law made by the judge, so significant that if they weren't made, there could have been a different verdict.'

The e-mail reportedly said Justice Josephson simply 'didn't believe the crown witnesses.'

When asked about the appointment of former Ontario Premier Bob Rae as an eminent person to make his recommendations as to what the Canadian government should do next in this case, Hayer said he was among the families of the victims who met Rae in Vancouver last Saturday (April 30).

"I think he seems to be understanding what the problems are. I am hoping, along with many other people, he will recommend there should be a full enquiry; as what changes we have to make (in our legal system) so that the Police can fully investigate these types of cases; what changes we have to do so that the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms) is not used to protect the criminal element than the victims and the society," he said.

Hayer also suggested that when we have such cases of mass murder, "there should be a bench of 3 to 5 judges rather than asking a single judge making his or her own mind alone."

He said "these are some of the questions they want to ask at the public inquiry. We all know the police, as well as the CSIS, have bungled the case from the beginning."

Is the Kanishka verdict fair?

The important question was "how to send a message that it (terrorism) will not happen again and no terrorist can think if Canada as an open place to kill other human beings and knowing they can get away because our (legal) system is now broken, any person after committing serious crime, can get away."

Venkatachari of the Victims' Association said they have now sent a formal letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin, with a copy to Immigration Minister Joe Volpe, "again asking the Prime Minister to meet members of Air India Victims Families Association immediately to address these concerns and to immediately announce the public inquiry."

At a media round table April 25, Martin told rediff.com that if representatives of "these families want to meet with the prime minister of Canada, the prime minister of Canada will meet with them."

"We demand that our government makes sure we find out what actually happened in this worst mass murder 20 years ago so that it never happens again," said Venkatachari.

"All of us have a great deal of respect for Bob Rae. My only concern, and concern of other families, is very simple: Prime Minister delegated the responsibility to Public Safety Minister Ann McLellan and she has delegated that responsibility to Bob Rae."

"It was just passing the buck. But what is the point in appointing Bob Rae?

"Is it really to get to the truth or push off the responsibility to somebody else? That's not clear right now. What's his role: That he wants to get to the truth? Wants to do what's right? We from the family members are very, very angry, and we really have no patience with her (Public Safety Minister)."

Kanishka bombing: complete coverage


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