Mystery men key to plot, Air-India defence says


VANCOUVER, August 26, 2004
Robert Mates
The Glone and Mail

Two men boarded a plane in Vancouver for a flight to Toronto at 1 p.m. on June 22, 1985, moments before a flight with a bomb in the luggage compartment took off, the Air-India trial heard yesterday.

The two men, using tickets issued to B. Singh and S. Singh, have never been identified.

However, defence lawyer Michael Code suggested yesterday the two men, who sat together on the flight, might have been part of the conspiracy responsible for the Air-India disaster.

In the final days of submitting evidence in the mammoth international terrorism trial, the defence has suggested an alternative scenario to raise doubts about the prosecution theory. The defence has argued the Air-India conspiracy was much bigger and more complex than the prosecution has suggested.

Travel records, wiretaps, surveillance reports and long-distance phone records show several people were in contact with the alleged mastermind of the conspiracy, Talwinder Singh Parmar (who was killed in India in 1992), and with Inderjit Singh Reyat, who has been convicted of helping to make the bombs.

However, the records and reports also show that defendants Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik at every crucial step were not part of the conspiracy, the court has been told.

Yesterday, Mr. Code pinpointed several trips that the defence says may have been linked to the scheme but did not involve either Mr. Bagri or Mr. Malik.

On June 3, 1985, documents show an unidentified "East Indian" male travelled from Toronto to Vancouver. Mr. Code said wiretaps, surveillance reports and long-distance tolls suggest the unidentified male may be "Mr. X," the man who went with Mr. Parmar to a wooded area on Vancouver Island on June 4, 1985, to test a homemade bomb made by Mr. Reyat.

Mr. Code also drew attention to airline tickets issued in the name of Lal Singh.

One of the ticket reservations used to check in luggage with explosives was booked in the name of L. Singh. The court has also heard that Lal Singh was a Sikh militant wanted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was believed to be in Vancouver at the time of the Air-India disaster.

It was not clear yesterday whether the person named Lal Singh who used the airline tickets was the person previously linked to the conspiracy.

The airline documents showed an unidentified male travelling under the name of Lal Singh was on a flight from Vancouver to Toronto on June 7, 1985. He returned to Vancouver on June 20. Two men, Joga Singh and G. Singh, were also on the flight.

They arrived at 10 a.m., Mr. Code said. Surveillance by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service picked up three or four unidentified people at Mr. Parmar's home later on the same day. Mr. Code suggested the unidentified people were Lal Singh, Joga Singh and G. Singh.

Two days later, on June 22, 1985, two men travelled back to Toronto using tickets issued to B. Singh and S. Singh. A flight with a bomb in the luggage compartment left Vancouver at 9:18 a.m. that day. A second flight with a bomb left at 1:37 p.m. The flight with the two Singhs left at 1 p.m.

In an agreed statement of facts, the court was also told yesterday that phone records showed a call from Mr. Parmar's house to Mr. Bagri's house on June 23, 1985, the day of the disaster.

Mr. Bagri and Mr. Malik are charged with murder in the death of the 331 people killed on June 23, 1985, in explosions of two bombs. The trial continues.