Air India bomber granted bail

Wed Jul 9, 2008 7:03pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The only man convicted in connection with the 1985 Air India bombings was granted bail on Wednesday as he awaits trial for allegedly lying to a Canadian court that he knew nothing about the plot.

The ruling by British Columbia Court of Appeal judge Anne Rowles, which caught government officials by surprise, allows Inderjit Singh Reyat, 55, to be out of prison for the first time in two decades.

Details of the ruling, including the reasons and the conditions placed on Reyat during his release, are subject to a publication ban. His perjury trial in Vancouver is scheduled to start in January.

B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal, a former judge, said it was rare for a bail decision to be overturned, but called the release conditions "as strict as they can be."

"We are disappointed with his release," Oppal said at a news conference. He stressed, however, that while the public associates Reyat with the 1985 bombings, the upcoming trial deals only with a perjury charge.

Reyat pleaded guilty in 2003 to a reduced charge of manslaughter and was convicted of helping to construct the bomb that destroyed Air India Flight 182 over the Atlantic Ocean in June 1985. The blast killed 329 people in history's deadliest bombing of a civilian aircraft.

Reyat was also convicted in 1991 of manslaughter for constructing a bomb intended to explode on another Air India jet over the Pacific. That bomb was supposed to go off at the same time as the one on Flight 182, but exploded prematurely and killed two Japanese airport workers.

The bombings are believed to be the work of Canadian-based Sikh religious separatists who wanted to exact revenge on the Indian government for its 1984 attack on Sikhism's Golden Temple in Amritsar.   Continued...

<p>An artist's sketch shows Inderjit Singh Reyat (L) appearing in BC Supreme Court in Vancouver British Columbia, March 27, 2006. REUTERS/Felicity Don</p>