Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only man ever convicted in the 1985 Air India bombing that left 329 people dead, would be kept in jail for two more years after a Canadian parole board ruled that he remained a threat to the community.
At a hearing in the Collins Bay Institution in Kingston, Ontario, where Reyat is being held, the three-member National Parole Board on Friday did not pay heed to Reyat's claims that he was no longer the young and naive terrorist who helped orchestrate the worst mass killing in Canadian history.
"We have decided to detain you," lead Board member Michael Crowley told Reyat, adding, "We found you today to be evasive and contradictory in your responses and, as a consequence, in our view, [to] have little credibility."
Crowley said 53-year-old Reyat tried to play down his role in the bombing of Air India's Kanishka flight off the coast of Ireland on June 23, 1985, and rejected his claim that he was duped into participating in the plot.
"You have minimalised your role in this horrific crime," Crowley said, adding, "You chose to commit this offence; you were not fooled into it."
The Board said it will be difficult or impossible to safely supervise Reyat if he was released into the community. The victims' families and a Corrections Canada official argued that Reyat should not be released, and the panel agreed to keep him behind bars.
Because he has served two-thirds of his five-year sentence, Reyat was automatically due for parole in June. Those opposing his release had to convince the panel that Reyat was too dangerous to be released.
During the hearing, proceedings were delayed when Reyat broke down in tears as he claimed he was no longer the 'young and naïve' terrorist who helped bring down the airliner on June 23, 1985, resulting in the death of all 329 people aboard.
Reyat pleaded guilty in 2003 to manslaughter for his role in the bombing - he confessed to acquiring materials used to make the bomb - and was sentenced to five years in prison. He has so far served two-thirds of that sentence. Reyat was charged last month with perjury for allegedly lying during the trial of two other accused, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, in the case. He faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison if convicted.
Malik and Bagri were acquitted in March last year. Families who lost loved ones in the bombing insisted on Friday that Reyat, an electrician from Duncan, remains a serious danger to society. They feared that he could be involved in terrorism again if released early. They also told the Board that Reyat's sentence was too lenient.