Canadian apology for Air India bombing demanded as inquiry endsFebruary 16th, 2008 - 10:16 am ICT by admin
By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, Feb 16 (IANS) Blaming intelligence, policing and systemic failures for the 1985 Air India bombing, families of the victims have demanded a formal apology from the Canadian prime minister. They have also demanded more compensation from the government for bungling the worst mass murder case in Canadian history. Following their submissions, the 18-month public inquiry, headed by former Canadian Supreme Court chief justice John Major, formally ended Friday. The families also demanded mandatory intelligence sharing among various agencies and multi-judge terror trials to prevent future terror attacks.
The single-judge Air India trial had ended in acquittal of suspects - Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri - in 2005. The uproar over acquittals led the government to order the current public inquiry.
Making submissions on the final day of the public inquiry, lawyers for the families said lack of co-ordination between Canadian agencies resulted in the Air India case remaining unsolved till to date.
In the light of huge evidence of bungling by these agencies, the lawyers said the prime minister should tender a formal apology and give additional compensation to the families.
Representing the Air India Victims’ Families Association (AIVFA), Jacques Shore said the families were let down by government agencies before and after the bombing that claimed 329 lives.
He said: “The government not only failed to protect their loved ones, it also failed to successfully investigate and prosecute those responsible for this heinous crime.”
Despite the threat of Sikh extremism in Canada before the bombing, he said the government showed no political will to tackle it. After the tragedy, Canada “failed to successfully investigate and prosecute those responsible for this heinous crime,” he added.
Since turf wars between the spy agency (Canadian Intelligence Security Service) and the investigation agency (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) are blamed for acquittals, Norman Boxal, another lawyer for the families, proposed an Office of National Security Co-ordination to ensure they worked in tandem.
Information sharing among them must be made mandatory, he said.
Since the victims’ families have found fault with the jury-less Air India trial by a single judge, they submitted that they do not support future trials by a single judge, without a jury.
“If a panel of three judges is not viable in Canada, terrorist prosecutions should not be conducted before a single judge, but must be heard by a court composed of a judge and jury,” Boxal said on behalf of the families.
Inquiry commissioner John Major will now prepare a final report, making wide-ranging recommendations to tighten Canadian systems.
In his final remarks, Major said though Ripudaman Singh Malik - acquitted in the Air India case - had requested to give his submissions, he didn’t appear before the inquiry.
“There has been only silence and people can draw whatever inference they like from his failure to appear as he requested to do,” he said.
Commission spokesman Michael Tansey told IANS: “However, no final date has been set for the inquiry report. Today, the families made only oral submissions. Now they will give us written submissions which will become part of the final report.”
When contacted, a prominent Indo-Canadian, who lost a close relative in the Kanishka bombing and was represented by a lawyer, said: “We have to wait and see what the final report contains.”
Asked about their demand for a formal apology and more compensation, the Indo-Canadian, who did not wish to be identified, said: “I don’t know about it. I didn’t discuss anything with my lawyer.”
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