March 16, 2005

Air India - 331 Dead; everybody walks. Some more background info on the politics behind this hideous loss of life, the worst single act of terrorism the world had seen until 9/11. Twenty years of investigation down the toilet, and no closure for the families.
  • Sorry if people think this is too newsfilter - but this has been our version of OJ Simpson walking; and we've been on the trail for twenty bloody years.
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  • I thought violence of this kind was antithesis to Sikh philosophy. Clearly I was wrong. I'm also astounded that I've heard nothing about this in the media, despite being a news junkie.
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  • I'm also astounded that I've heard nothing about this in the media Because it was in Canada, and wasn't 9/11. This has affected thousand and thousands of people, especially in my city, Vancouver, because those planes left our airport before blowing up over the water, and at Narita Airport.
  • November 18, 1998 Tara Singh Hayer, 64, founder of the Indo-Canadian Times (founded in 1978, the oldest and largest Punjabi-language weekly in Canada) and an outspoken critic of Sikh militancy, is shot dead in the garage of his Surrey, B.C. residence as he is transferring himself from his car into the wheelchair he had been using since an assassination attempt on August 28, 1988 left him partially paralyzed. In 1988 he was excommunicated by a Sikh high priest in Amritsar, India, in an edict that also forbade all Sikhs from buying or reading the Indo-Canadian Times. Hayer was a recipient of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian award. Given the assassinations that have happened in the Sikh community, I would not be surprised if this ends in bullets. A lot of little boys growing up without a father asked to give the Canadian way a chance have been betrayed.
  • I actually cried when I read this, and not just my usual teary snuffling from reading the news. I'm exhausted from work, have gotten tons of bad news about family lately, and then this...I just couldn't believe it. It's not that I want just anyone to go to jail, or want the wrong people to go to jail, but I felt like the Crown had a compelling case, and I just can't get over how much bungling went on altogether over the whole 20 years. Reyat Singh's earlier sentence doesn't mitigate the issue. I'm also really affected by the whole case, the whole issue. Those people died because of something that happened in a different country - violence against Sikhs in India - and I've always thought that's one of the worst things. The victims were of Indian descent, mainly, but they were also mainly Canadians and they didn't deserve to be targeted for something from another time and another place. It doesn't help that I just read a report that anti-Semitic violence and incidents increased greatly last year in Canada. I just wish we could all...leave things behind us.
  • I've been trying not to cry all day. I'm also pretty worried about the possibility of overflow from this situation, meaning there are a lot of well-armed, pissed off young guys about. A couple of years ago, after a spate of shootings close together my friend Kamini said, "It's a bad time to be East Indian". No doubt.
  • From the BBC: British Columbia Supreme Court Judge Ian Bruce Josephson said he found factual errors and credibility problems with each of the witnesses. "Despite the horrific nature of the alleged crimes, there can be no lowering of the standard of proof from that required in any criminal trial," he said. Delivering his verdict against Mr Bagri, he said there was clear motive to commit the bombing but the evidence did not support it, although the judge reiterated that the conspiracy was hatched in Vancouver. It was, he said, an act of fanaticism at its basest and most inhumane. All horribly reminiscent of the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am 103. For some of the relatives of those killed in that attack, the conviction of one person (on what they believe to be flimsy evidence) did nothing to ease the sense of injustice, that the real perpetrators had got away.
  • I remember that when the opposition were calling for a memorial to Canadians killed in 9-11, someone (government, or media?) pointed out that about 10 times as many Canadians died in this attack, and suggested that perhaps it should receive a memorial first/instead.
  • Hope things don't get nuts out there, moneyjane. I'm pretty privileged to have been sitting in my study room in the library way away in Ottawa when the verdict was announced, safe from the world. (Made it easier to cry and not be embarrassed, too).
  • By the way, thanks for the post, moneyjane. I've just spent the last 90 minutes reading about the Sikh Nationalist movement on Wikipedia and elsewhere. Apparently the former prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards as a direct retribution for Operation Blue Star (the attack by Indian forces on the Amritsar shrine*). The most interesting thing about OBS is that it was led by a Sikh, Maj. Gen. Kuldip Singh Brar. The post-assassination anti-Sikh riots in Delhi killed at least 2000 Sikhs. Senseless. Just senseless. I wonder if the wounds have healed enough by now that this acquittal won't spark yet another round of anti-Sikh violence in India and elsewhere. Incidentally, Indira's son Rajeev was himself assassinated for his involvement in anti-terrorism stuff in Sri Lanka. Not to make this yet again about the USA, but I find it funny and depressing how many Americans think that 9/11 was the birth of terrorism. * I had the good fortune to see the shrine myself when I was taking a trip through India a couple years back. Three things from that trip I'll never forget: the Taj Mahal, the Golden Temple at Amritsar, and the Jain temple on the summit of Mt. Abu.
  • The former chief of the Air India Task Force has stated, "there would be no point" in continuing the investigation once the judge delivers his verdict today. Another thing that irks me, probably irrationally, is that Ripudaman Singh Malik is a goddamn millionaire. If he did it, leaving so many people without wives, children, parents and friends - in some cases entire families were wiped out - I hope he pays hard, one way or another.
  • More information on Malik. Real Sikhism is being screwed over by fanatics.
  • All religion is bunk. Fanatics will always exploit the self-deluded idiots who follow these ridiculous belief systems. As long as superstitious humans cling to these antiquated constucts, there will be thugs willing to exploit the ignorance of their followers for their own ends. It makes me sick.
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  • Of course, the USAian media wasn't interested in this. I mean Robert Blake was acquitted today, fergoonessake! /deep depressive cynicism
  • Update: The Attorney General says they are already going over the 600+ page decision laid down by the judge looking for appeal grounds, and the families are demanding a public inquiry.
  • I heard this on the CBC news at lunch. My reaction: Oh, my god, oh, my god, oh, my god. I don't believe it. And repeat. How wrong it is.
  • wendell, I'm there with you. It's a fucking disgrace, really. This was possibly the worst terrorist act in the last 20 years pre-9/11 - even Oklahoma City only had about a third of the deaths of Air India. And yet it's as if it doesn't exist, as if all instances of major terrorism shouldn't be something to be concerned about. I'm hoping there's a public inquiry - I think it will be more useful than an appeal (although that would be okay too). I think the case is just probably bunged up beyond repair, at this point, and so we need to approach it from a non-legal perspective, in order to find some sense of closure and justice. Plus, I want to know just what the fuck the government was doing.
  • I have no doubt there'll be an appeal. Remember, this will give prosecutors the opportunity to correct whatever errors were made in the initial case. Not knowing what Judge Josephson noted as errors and testimony in bad faith, we cannot comment on the justice of the decision, only that it seems a set of criminals have for the moment gotten away with a terrible crime. Hopefully this situation can be corrected, and within a reasonable time (unlike the years taken for this first decision).
  • In regards to the decision by Judge Josephson, someone outside the courthouse commented something along the lines of "It's not our job to comment as to if someone got away with something; it's our job to make a decision based on evidence presented". I imagine Josephson did the best he could.
  • From what I know of the case, there was no hard evidence presented by the prosecution. The best evidence investigators had was taped telephone conversations obtained by CSIS (sort of Canadian CIA) of one of the suspected ringleaders. Unfortunately someone at CSIS erased all the tapes years ago. I don't think Judge Josephson had a choice here, and he probably made the right call. I hope there's no public inquiry. This has dragged on long enough. The evidence publicised by an inquiry would just enrage impressionable young men on both sides. Its time for the healing to begin. Oh, and Pareidoliatic Boy, Fuck You. This is not the time or place to insult billions of people.
  • good post, moneyjane. fuck newsfilter, this is important.
  • I did pay attention whenever the trial testimony made the news and the judge's decision is not surprising, if unfortunate. IIRC, there were people changing their testimony at trial, testimony different from that recorded on tape beforehand, prosecutors forced to treat their own witnesses as hostile...it was a mess. I got the impression that it only went to trial because the prosecution felt their case wasn't going to get any better, and if more time passed the witness testimony would only get more unreliable. The difficulty with prosecuting any conspiracy is in being forced to rely on testimony of the conspirators.
  • How the fuck do you give a speech at Madison Square Garden calling for the extermination of 50,000 people and not have someone say something? Was everyone too busy looking for Communists or something? Since these guys were so obviously guilty, why don't you lynch them? You do have lynching in Canada, right? We can show you how.
  • A case of lesser magnitude would have been dropped long before due to the procedural screw ups along the way. The verdict is, unfortunately, not terribly surprising if you followed the case. Not only did CSIS erase taped conversations of the suspects -- and these guys had no compunctions about admitting guilt to everyone and their dog, which is the real kicker -- but two important witnesses just happened to die along the way. The Crown prosecutors did not stand a chance. That being said, I have to agree with our dear Solicitor General -- and that's a friggin first for me -- that a public inquiry would likely add nothing to the public record that has not already been uncovered in 20 years of investigation. It's only purpose would be to assign blame (if rightly), largely to CSIS, partly to the RCMP, and also to the FBI. That's just not worth the millions it would cost when we already have details of how these various agencies screwed up, and they've had plenty of years to get at least these particular protocols straight (and they have, though still not 100% sure about FBI info-sharing, given the current security climate). As for coverage, it did make front page of the BBC. What gets me, though, isn't the aquittals -- it's the 5 year manslaughter sentence for Reyat. I mean, alright, guilty plea -- that's worth something. But even a plea bargain (not the case here as far as I know) results in a sentencing *recommendation* from the Crown which the judge is free to set aside if he or she chooses. I would not be at all surprised to see the Crown appeal that sentence, and -- without ever having researched something so serious, mind you -- I bet there's good caselaw to demonstrate that five years is wholly inadequate for such a crime. Let's see, what's five divided by 321? Hmm. That's just under 6 days per victim. Nice.
  • I should add just for clarity that I usually retain a certain element of unemotional skepticism in the face of acquittals -- it isn't proof of innocence, but it demonstrates insufficient proof of guilt, so who am I to think I know better? I am worse than iffy on this one, however. Over the line. IF we choose to believe for the moment that the evidence lost by way of erasure and death held the information that the prosecutors think it did, I think we'd be seeing a different verdict today. Or rather, years earlier.
  • I was raised in South Vancouver. My business is less than a quarter mile from the Ross Street Temple. Half of my staff lost family or friends in that despicable incident. My sister's boyfreind was among them. I am familiar with the evidence, and have followed the case closely. I am not surprised at this acquittal, as the Crown's case was flimsy, at best. So, if you are so perceptive, Rocket88 , then please explain to all of us here just which of the world's religions is the correct one. Also, tell us why the constant killing that results from these ridiculous superstitions is a good thing.
  • Number of people mentioned during the trial as possibly involved in or aware of the conspiracy, but never charged: 15. What a giant fuck up. It's been whispered for years that some people and families were told ahead of time to not fly on fly Air India out of Vancouver on June 23, 1985. A lot of people know a lot more than will probably ever come out publicly.
  • Since these guys were so obviously guilty, why don't you lynch them? You do have lynching in Canada, right? We can show you how. Not sure if you were being serious - but lynching isn't how these things work here. A drive by assassination is far more likely. That's how it's been done before.
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  • To demonstrate just how lightly the government of the time took this tragedy, in which 329 travellers, 280 of which were Canadians, most of them of Indian origin, I would mention that the Mulroney government's first gesture was to send its condolences to the Republic of India. - translated comments of Fran├žois Langlois in 1995, following MP Nunziato's motion to initate a royal commission of inquiry. I've read that Mulroney quickly became aware of his mistake and then conveyed his condolences to the Canadian relatives, but for a long time any mention of Air India always reminded me of that first gesture. Ottawa's memorial plaque. Ireland's memorial sundial. Remembering Juju. I wish there were more individual profiles of the victims. Maybe there are, and I'm just not looking in the right places.
  • One of the professors in my high school died on the flight. I don't know what to think about this. I never followed the case over the years, but it seems that those two individuals were probably guilty. I have never grokked the closure concept. Our justice system isn't supposed to bring about the climax of a narrative, it's supposed to produce justice. You want closure, see a movie. I really feel for the families but that's the way it is. I'm dismayed at the incompetence of CSIS et al., more than anything. Between this and the Arar case I have to ask what good our security services is actually doing against terrorism. Sorry, but fuck lynching, 'kay? I wouldn't shed a tear if these gentlemen met a premature ending, but we're supposed to be on the side of civilization here.
  • For interest's sake, I'll mention that an interview I heard this morning revealed that a number of critical tapes were lost when a CSIS agent deliberately destroyed them, so that the RCMP investigation would not learn the identity of his informant. For the unfamiliar, CSIS and the RCMP are both Canadian law enforcement agencies. Wow. Like something out of a cliched spy novel. Of course, I've heard before that CSIS and the RCMP make the CIA & FBA look like bosom buddies.
  • So, if you are so perceptive, Rocket88 , then please explain to all of us here just which of the world's religions is the correct one. Who knows? Maybe one of them, maybe all of them, maybe none of them. It doesn't matter. You, P-Boy, seem convinced that the truth lies in atheism, so much so that you ridicule and insult anybody who doesn't believe what you do. How is that any different from other forms of religious intolerance? Some people kill over religion, so to you that makes religion an evil force. Would you say the same for people who kill over love? Money? Honour?
  • Would you say the same for people who kill over love? Money? Honour? Or political beliefs? There are a hell of a lot of Leftist guerillas out there maiming and killing. And how about race? That would include genocidal campaigns and any number of riots, including the LA riot in 1992. I think singling out religion here is kind of pointless. Any group that believes they are right, and others are wrong, and that the 'other' needs to be shown they are wrong by violent ends has potential to progress to terrorist thought and acts. See KKK.
  • From Judge Josephson's ruling, some comments on the credibility of witnesses: On "Ms A", the star witness: "Examining Ms D's evidence...I find that she has not been truthful with the Court and that I am unable to rely on her evidence". On "Mr. B": "Mr. B is not a credible witness [because]... he did not [come forward] until 12 years after the event...he harbored a powerful motive for revenge...in the past he has provided false information under oath when it advanced his own interests" On "Mr A": "Having informed no one of his encounter with Mr. Malik for 19 years, he came forward only after the evidence of Mr B was related to him by his wife from a newspaper account...Mr A's evidence is also impossible. The area where he said this 1984 conversation [with Malik] took place simply did not exist until 1986." On "Mr C": Mr C was paid $460,000 by the RCMP in exchange for agreeing to testify. "He then attempted to extract an additional $200,000 US on the very eve of his testimony, testifying unconvincingly that these attempts had been the result of a misunderstanding..." Like Nal said, the verdict was unfortunate but understandable. Justice was done, it's just that the prosecution's case was a disaster. If anyone let down the victims, it was CSIS not the courts.
  • ...it was CSIS As usual :(
  • The second bomb that exploded prematurely at the Narita Airport was meant to blow Air India Flight 301 out of the air as well. That means that had the bomb not exploded in Narita, the 177 passengers on Air India 301 would have died as well as the 327 passengers killed on Air India Flight 182. They intended to kill 504 people. I think they need to hunt these guys down for as long as it takes, til everybody's old and grey, just like they tracked down those good ol' boys killing Black activists, civil rights workers and bombing churches during desegregation. They now say they'll keep the case open. I bloody well hope so. I don't care how long it takes, how much it costs, or who gets embarrassed along the way - it's what we owe the dead and the families left behind. I doubt very much the US would give up on finding the people behind 9/11 because twenty years had passed, just as I don't think Spain would blow off the families of the Madrid bombings because it was twenty years ago. If they try to make Flight 182 go away rather than do everything they can, for as long as they have to, Canada is announcing to the world that a terrorist attack on Canadian citizens doesn't matter so much if they're brown. Unacceptable.
  • I doubt very much the US would give up on finding the people behind 9/11 because twenty years had passed...
    Osama who?
  • So, I'm guesing that I'm the only one who sees the irony in being confronted with the words "Fuck You" from someone who then commences to preach tolerance and understanding? I have a news-flash for you, Rocket. I am not an Atheist, as you so wrongly assume. Your angry and extremely personal response to my observation about the nature of religious control was neither justified, nor appropriate. One of the things that I like about this place, as opposed to the other, is the generally more civil nature of the discussions around here. Your vituperative lashing out and obscene comment toward someone who happens to have a differing perspective from your own reminds me of nothing so much as it does of the Christian priests here in BC; who removed First Nations boys from their homes to isolate them from "pagan influences" and teach them "God's Word" and then fucked them in the ass.
  • PB, your first post was rather trollish, and that doesn't tend to evoke the most tolerant and polite responses in people. Especially in already emotionally laden topics. I mean, in three sentences you managed to call the vast majority of people on this planet self-deluded, superstitious, ignorant idiots. And called the things they believe in ridiculous antiquated bunk. It's possible your differing perspective could be phrased in a slightly more palatable form. (I am just pointing out because it seems you didn't mean to be offensive with it.)
  • PB, my first comment had nothing to do with your beliefs or mine. It was about your attempt to hijack a thread about a court decision with an insult-filled screed against many peoples' belief systems. Not exactly an example of the kind of civil discussion you claim to be looking for. And for that matter, neither is your imbecilic and logically flawed attempt to compare me to pedophile priests...try to do better next time.
  • Through a friend of a friend, I learned that there is a psychology study being conducted on the reaction of Canadians to this decision. This is the blurb:
    We are seeking volunteers to complete a web-based survey assessing their views on the outcome of the trial associated with the Air India bombing case. The survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Participation in this study is anonymous. All information you provide will be considered confidential. If you are interested, please complete our survey at the following site: www.historysurveys.com
  • Government was warned of Air India bombing. Fucking outrageous.