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Canada: Terrorists Not Allowed


The Globe and Mail, Vancouver, Dec. 24, 2005

Photo: Inderjit Singh Reyat

A Federal Court judge has ordered refugee officials to develop a clearer understanding of the atrocities committed by Sikh terrorists, and to take a more critical look at a refugee who says he was forced into dealing drugs for the Babbar Khalsa.

The infamous separatist Sikh group - widely blamed for the 1985 Air-India bombings that killed 331 - remains active in the Punjab area of India, where authorities say members are running drugs.

'It is undisputed that the B.K. is a terrorist organization that engages in drug trafficking in order to purchase arms and ammunition to pursue its goal,' Mr. Justice Luc Martineau said in a Dec. 9 written ruling from Ottawa.

The ruling flows from the case of Akash Deep Singh Maan, an Indian citizen who arrived in Brampton, Ont., in 2002. While Mr. Maan persuaded officials he was deserving of asylum, the federal government appealed, because he admitted having links to Babbar Khalsa.

Judge Martineau agreed that the case needed more scrutiny and ordered the Immigration and Refugee Board to take a second look. Specifically, he has ordered refugee officials to 'perform a sufficient analysis concerning the nature of the B.K. to determine the respondent's degree of participation in and/or complicity with the organization.'

Mr. Maan told Canadian authorities he fled the Punjab because he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. He says that for a four-month span beginning in September, 2000, the group recruited him as a drug mule. He said he was told if he didn't bring drugs to school, he or his family would be killed.

Mr. Maan, who was a teenager at the time, said he ran drugs five times before police arrested him. He alleges police tortured him to name the people who gave him the drugs, and to implicate them as Babbar Khalsa sympathizers. These events, he said, prompted him to get a student visa and apply for asylum in Canada.

Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board found Mr. Maan credible and awarded him refugee status. But lawyers for Canada's Immigration Minister appealed.

Judge Martineau found that the refugee tribunal had sidestepped the question of whether Mr. Maan was complicit in terrorism, given that he had admitted to being involved in criminal activity that could have benefited terrorist schemes. The judge said that if that's the case, youth, peripheral involvement and a lack of criminal convictions are no excuse.

Any 'knowing participant of an organization principally directed to a limited, brutal purpose' is barred from entering Canada, he wrote.

He added that Mr. Maan 'had knowledge of abuses committed by the B.K. He did not opt to disassociate with the B.K.,' Judge Martineau wrote. ' . . . Given that the terrorists had left the drug handling to him, it appears that he had the opportunity to run away.'

No date has been set for a new hearing.

The Canadian government formally named Babbar Khalsa International as a terrorist group in 2003, a designation many observers believed was long overdue.

The federal government has tried, but largely failed, to prosecute several Vancouver-area supporters of the group for the Air-India bombings. One man [Inderjit Singh Reyat] has plead guilty to manslaughter.

While the group has toned down its rhetoric and presence in the past 20 years in Canada, a reputed B.K. leader in India was arrested this year on suspicion of involvement in an explosion, a jailbreak and an assassination. He denies the charges.