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Air India Bombing Trial Expected to Last Well Into 2004


The Vancouver Sun, Apr. 24, 2003

"It is the largest court case in Canadian history and journalists from around the world are expected to be here when the Air India bombing trial gets under way in B.C. Supreme Court Monday. The ministry of the attorney-general has received applications from 150 journalists representing 35 media outlets in 10 different countries. While most come from North America, some of the reporters who have expressed interest in covering the high-profile case come from Hong Kong, Ireland, England and France. Some of the media outlets are world-renowned like the Washington Post and the British Broadcasting Corporation. Ministry spokesman Curt Albertson said there are three people in the attorney-general's ministry working on last-minute arrangements for the crush of reporters expected to attend. He said no one knows how long the foreign media outlets will continue to cover the trial, which is expected to last well into 2004."
"Vancouver businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik and Kamloops mill worker Ajaib Singh Bagri are each charged on eight counts, including conspiracy, attempted murder and murder in connection with two bomb blasts on Jun. 23, 1985 that killed 331 people. The first explosion killed two baggage handlers at Tokyo's Narita Airport as they transferred a suitcase from Vancouver onto an Air India flight. The second blast brought down Air India Flight 182 less than an hour later, killing all 329 aboard. Police allege Malik and Bagri were part of a conspiracy by B.C. Sikh separatists to target India's national airline in retaliation for the Indian Army's attack on Sikhism's holiest shrine, the Golden Temple at Amritsar, a year earlier. Security precautions for the trial are unprecedented. Special photo identification is being prepared for accredited journalists. And a specially prepared Air India guide book, containing facts about the case is being handed out this week."
"An overflow courtroom across the street from the special $7.2 million Air India courtroom will also be available for journalists and members of the public. That courtroom will be connected to the main proceedings by a video uplink. Journalists will also be able to watch the proceedings via closed-circuit television in a media room nearby. While the media are expected to attend the trial in record numbers next week, there will be fewer relatives of the victims of Air India in court. The attorney general's ministry has offered to pay the expenses for relatives from each victim's family to attend the trial for a week. But the case is only sitting three days next week because of a scheduling conflict."
"Geoffrey Gaul, who speaks for the team of Air India prosecutors, said Wednesday only nine families have made arrangements to attend next week. He expects that number to go up considerably as the trial progresses and is sitting for full weeks. 'They are entitled to attend for a week, so why come for a short week?' Gaul said. 'The numbers will climb as we move into a full week.' "