Canadian Guilty of Perjury in Terrorism Case

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The only person convicted in the 1985 Air India bombing that killed 329 people off the coast of Ireland was found guilty Saturday of perjury during the trial.

The British Columbia Supreme Court jury found Inderjit Singh Reyat guilty of lying under oath during his testimony in the trial against his alleged co-conspirators in the plot, Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik. They were acquitted of first-degree murder and conspiracy in 2005 after a trial lasting almost two years.

The maximum sentence for perjury is 14 years in jail, but sentences are more routinely in the range of two to three years.

Flight 182 from Montreal, Quebec, to Heathrow, London, disappeared from radar off the Irish coast June 23, 1985, when a bomb exploded and killed all 329 people on board.

Reyat was convicted for his role in gathering materials for the bomb and was sentenced to five years in jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter in February 2003.

He was charged with perjury in 2006. He has been out of prison on bail since July 2008.

Prosecutor Len Doust told jurors this week that Reyat did not tell the truth under oath to minimize his involvement in the bombing and to protect people who conspired to bomb the two Air India planes.

An hour before the bombing of Flight 182, a bag destined for another Air India flight exploded at Tokyo's Narita Airport, killing two baggage handlers.

In his closing address, Doust told jurors that Reyat deflected questions while he was on the stand and concocted lies that were so blatant they defied common sense.

But Reyat's lawyer, Ian Donaldson, said the prosecution failed to prove his client had a motive to lie.

Reyat testified Talwinder Singh Parmar, a leader of the Babbar Khalsa, a banned Sikh separatist group, asked him to collect bomb-making material but that he didn't know what the explosive device would be used for and didn't ask any questions.

He eventually testified Parmar wanted the bomb to blow up something heavy in India and that he agreed to help him because he was upset with the Indian government's treatment of Sikhs.

Reyat also said that when he heard about the deaths of the people killed in the bombings, he didn't think his involvement in collecting parts for explosives had anything to do with the disasters.

"If you believe that, I direct you to somebody who'll sell you a bridge," said Doust, who also cross-examined Reyat at the Air India trial.

Donaldson said his client didn't remember certain events because they occurred nearly 20 years earlier.

The bombings were Canada's worst case of mass murder.

During the terrorist trial, prosecutor Robert Wright maintained that the bombing was revenge by Sikh separatists for a deadly 1984 raid by Indian forces on the Golden Temple at Amritsar -- Sikhism's holiest shrine. The Indian government crushed the separatist campaign in Punjab state in the early 1990s.

Reyat acknowledged in his guilty plea he was upset about the plight of Sikhs in India and wanted to help them.

Bagri, a militant Sikh, gave a speech in New York in 1984 that urged the killing of Hindus in the drive for a separate Sikh state of Khalistan.