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Partial Lifting of Publication Ban on Air-India Bombing Court Files


The Globe and Mail, Vancouver, Apr. 17, 2003

"A publication ban on 8,000 court documents in the Air-India international terrorism case was lifted yesterday, 11 days before the historic mass-murder trial is to begin on Apr. 28. The mammoth stack of documents, which court officials have scanned onto a compact disc, is expected to be available to the media within the next few days. The documents tell the story of what has happened in the unprecedented court case since Oct., 2000, when the R.C.M.P. arrested Vancouver businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik and Kamloops millworker Ajaib Singh Bagri. The two men, who were advocates for an unsuccessful Sikh independence movement in India in the 1980s, were charged with murder in the deaths of 331 people. On Jun. 23, 1985, two bombs exploded within an hour on opposite sides of the world, killing two baggage handlers in Japan and everyone aboard an Air-India flight. The attacks were the worst incidents of terrorism in civil aviation history, until the W.T.C. disaster on Sep. 11, 2001."
"The newly released documents include part of the official record dealing with the failure of Canada's spy agency to keep tapes of wiretapped conversations of some Air-India suspects. The stack of material also includes evidence against Inderjit Singh Reyat, who pleaded guilty to helping make the bomb that exploded on the Air-India flight, killing 329 people. Hundreds of documents with information about 10 key prosecution witnesses and some aspects of the police investigation remain inaccessible. The court also refused to release some documents that allegedly deal with national security. The publication ban will remain on a 1992 report from the Security Intelligence Review Committee on why Canadian Security Intelligence Service wiretap tapes were erased."
"The publication ban on most of the documents was lifted in Feb., after Mr. Reyat was sentenced to five years in prison and the others chose to be tried by judge alone. The court reimposed the ban after The Globe and Mail published a report about an R.C.M.P. list of more than 3,000 people who had spoken to police during the 18-year investigation. Crown counsel, C.S.I.S. and the R.C.M.P. subsequently reviewed every document submitted to the court over the past 2.5 years to determine whether public access should be granted. Media lawyer Dan Burnett said yesterday the court has now released about two-thirds of the material requested by the media. The documents were released in response to submissions from The Globe and Mail, C.B.C. and CanWest Global Communications Inc."