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'Kanishka witness was encouraged to get information'

November 26, 2003 17:17 IST

A defence lawyer in the Air India trial has said that Canadian police encouraged the key witness to obtain information from a convicted bomber and his wife.

Bill Smart told the court on Tuesday that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) wanted the woman to talk to Satnam Kaur Reyat, wife of Inderjit Singh Reyat, to gather information for the ongoing investigation.

Inderjit Singh Reyat is the only person convicted for his role in the bombing of Air India flight 182, which killed 329 people on June 23, 1985 and for the blast the same day in which two baggage handlers died at Tokyo's Narita airport.

Smart, representing accused terrorist Ripudaman Singh Malik, quoted minutes from a November 4, 1997, meeting of the RCMP's Air India task force to Cpl Doug Best.

"(The woman) knows something of Malik's associates and has a trusting relationship with Mrs Reyat and (the woman) said she could talk (Inderjit) Reyat into cooperating," the minutes say.

But, Best appearing before the court said he did not recall ever specifically asking or having heard the woman say she could talk Mrs Reyat or Mr Reyat into co-operating. He also said he didn't record the minutes and isn't sure he made the comment, Canadian media reported.

"It might have been something I had wished but I don't recall it," Best told the court.

The woman, who can't be named under court order, has testified against the accused Malik.

Smart also quoted minutes from a second meeting of the task force on Nov 6, 1997, when the subject came up again:

"(The woman) feels that Mrs Reyat would co-operate if approached directly."

Best said he didn't know which officer would have made the comment but that as the primary investigator it may have been him.

The court also referred to Best's notes of Nov 12, 1997, when he wrote the woman called him at 4:30 pm that day to say she had visited Satnam Reyat and that she was being investigated for welfare fraud.

Satnam Reyat also told the woman her husband was concerned about his upcoming parole hearing and invited the woman to visit the man in prison.

Smart said the woman, who also met with Best at 12:30 pm that day, was calling the officer with information on the Reyats as an agent for the RCMP.

In February, Reyat was sentenced to five years in prison for his involvement in Air India bombing. He had already served 10-year sentence for Narita airport blast.

Rayet has admitted he supplied bomb parts in the plot to destroy Air India planes. Malik and his co-accused Ajaib Singh Bagri face first-degree and murder charges in both bombings.

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