- Category: Canada News
- Published Wednesday, January 27, 2016
- CTV News
VANCOUVER -- The only person convicted in the 1985 Air India bombings has been granted statutory release from prison to a halfway house.
Inderjit Singh Reyat was charged with perjury in 2006 for repeatedly lying during his testimony at the trial into the bombing deaths of 331 people, mostly Canadians.
Reyat was found guilty in 2010 and sentenced to a record nine years in prison, or seven years and seven months after accounting for time served.
Under the law, offenders must be granted statutory release after they have served two-thirds of their sentence.
Parole Board of Canada spokesman Patrick Storey said Reyat must abide by several conditions as part of his release, including not possessing any extremist propaganda or possessing any components used to build an explosive device.
He is also not allowed to contact victims' families or anyone who is believed to hold extremist views. He will be monitored by a parole officer and must complete counselling.
Reyat is set to serve the rest of his sentence, which ends in August 2018, at a halfway house. Storey said he could not disclose the location of the residence due to privacy legislation.
The parole board ruling for Reyat's release said a psychologist's assessment in 2013 found the man's risk was "relatively high" for future group-based violence and that he lacked remorse for the victims of the bombings.
"The loss of life had a profound and long-lasting impact on the families who lost their relatives in these incidents, and had far-reaching impact on people around the world," the decision said.
"Until recently, you took limited responsibility for your role in this catastrophic disaster, you lied in court and protected others involved."
If Reyat breaches any of the conditions, he can be sent back to prison, Storey said.
A parole officer could also recommend that Reyat be released early from the halfway house.
The eligibility date for Reyat's statutory release is Wednesday. Correctional Service Canada can release him a day early, but spokesman Jean-Paul Lorieau said privacy legislation prevented him from confirming whether Reyat had already left prison.
Bal Gupta, whose wife Ramwati died aboard Air India Flight 182, said Reyat's release is a difficult reality of the justice system for families who lost loved ones so long ago.
"This is justice taking its course and whether we are happy with it or not that's a different issue," said Gupta, of the Air India Families Association.
"Life goes on but this kind of pain, it disappears on the face but inside it will go with us when we go," Gupta said from his home in Toronto.
"Twenty-nine families were completely wiped out -- husband, wife, children, they were all gone. Seven couples lost all their children, and some of them are now in their late 60s or even early 70s. He'll be back with his family but for those people it's a punishment for a lifetime."
Passengers aboard Flight 182 had boarded from Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal before heading to New Delhi on June 23, 1985. The plane was ripped apart by a suitcase bomb off the coast of Ireland.
All 329 people aboard the aircraft died. The Crown maintained the suitcase was loaded onto a plane leaving Vancouver's airport before being transferred to a connecting flight in Toronto.
A second bomb-laden suitcase, destined for another Air India flight, exploded prematurely and killed two baggage handlers in Tokyo.
Ripudaman Singh Malik of Vancouver and Ajaib Singh Bagri of Kamloops, B.C., were acquitted in March 2005 of murder and conspiracy charges in the two bombings connected with state-owned Air India.
The Crown maintained they were seeking revenge for the Indian government's 1984 raid of the Golden Temple as it tried to flush out armed militants from Sikhism's holiest shrine in Amritsar, India.