VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The only person ever convicted in connection with the Air India bombings that killed 331 people in 1985 asked a Canadian court on Tuesday to let him out of jail as he awaits trial in a related perjury case.
The bail hearing for Inderjit Singh Reyat appeared to douse speculation in the Canadian media he was ready to plead guilty to lying on the witness stand during the trial of two other suspects in the bombing plot.
Reyat’s wife and children were in the court in Vancouver as defense lawyers and prosecutors argued over the bail request. Details of the legal arguments are subject to a court-ordered publication ban.
The June 1985 destruction of Air India Flight 182, which was en route to India from Canada, over the Atlantic Ocean killed 329 people in history’s deadliest bombing of a civilian airliner. A related attempt to bomb an Air India jet over the Pacific killed two workers at Japan’s Narita airport.
The bombings have been alleged to be the work of Western Canadian-based Sikh militants seeking revenge on the Indian government for its 1984 attack on Sikhism’s Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Reyat, who holds both Canadian and British citizenship, was convicted in 1993 of building the suitcase bomb that exploded in Japan. He pleaded guilty in 2003 to a reduced charge for his role in the Fight 182 bombing.
After pleading guilty, Reyat told the Vancouver trial of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, who had been accused of participating in the bomb plot, that he did not know who else was involved. Malik and Bagri were found not guilty, but the judge called Reyat an “unmitigated liar.”
Reyat was later charged with perjury, but the trial is not schedule to start until January 19, 2009. The judge on Tuesday did not say when he would rule on the bail request.
Reyat has been in prison since 1988 because of the two bombing charges, and was ordered held in custody on the perjury charge despite completing his final sentence last month.
Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by Peter Galloway