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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-323304 CQ Canada-Air India Trial (L-only)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=03-16-05

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

NUMBER=2-323304

TITLE=CANADA-AIR INDIA TRIAL (l-ONLY)

BYLINE=CRAIG McCULLOCH

DATELINE=VANCOUVER

CONTENT=

/// re-running to correct spelling in Byline to CRAIG ///

Headline: A Vancouver Court Acquitted Two Canadian Sikhs In Air India Bombing Trial

INTRO: Two men accused of blowing up an Air India 747 in 1985 have been found not guilty in Vancouver,Thursday. Craig McCulloch reports on the conclusion to the largest and most complex criminal trial in Canadian history.

TEXT: In finding the two co-accused not guilty, British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Ian Bruce Josephson said some prosecution key witnesses appeared to be liars, their testimony was unbelievable and he was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.

The ruling set free 58 year-old millionaire Ripudaman Singh Malik and 55 year old forestry worker Ajaib Singh Bagri.

Both men were charged with the mid-air explosion of an Air India jetliner off the coast of Ireland, a near simultaneous explosion in Japan's Narita Airport, and attempting to murder the passengers of another Air India flight. Three-hundred-29 passengers were killed on the jetliner and two baggage handlers died in Japan.

Outside the courtroom, Bagri's youngest daughter stood beside her father and read a prepared statement, repeating his claim of innocence.

/// Bagri Actuality ///

But I want to repeat publicly today that I have told the authorities numerous times since 1985, that I had absolutely no involvement in any of these criminal activities. The loss of so many innocent lives resulting from these events in an enormous tragedy.

/// End Bagri Actuality ///

The judge did agree with the prosecution that the bombs were made and planted on connecting flights in Vancouver and there was a conspiracy to commit the crimes.

Geoff Gaul, spokesperson for the prosecution, refused to criticize the judge or give a detailed reaction to the ruling. Still, despite the not guilty verdict, Mr. Gaul says prosecutors are satisfied that they presented the best case possible.

// Geoffrey Gaul Actuality //

We believe we had a case to present and we are satisfied that all of the efforts that we made were in the aim of attaining justice. At the end of the day, we have to respect the process and we respect the judge's reasons.

/// End Gaul Act ///

Prosecutors say they will immediately look over the 625-page judgment and then decide in the next thirty days if they will appeal.

Speaking to media in an emotional press conference after the verdict, families of those killed are now asking the Canadian government to hold a federal inquiry.

Bal Gupta, who was 12 years old when his mother was perished, is hoping it will uncover problems with the police investigation, justice system, and security lapses that allowed the bombing to happen.

// Bal Gupta Actuality //

This was murder, pure and simple. Murder. Murder in any system of justice demands: justice. If the murder of 329 people, including over 200 real Canadian men, real Canadian women and real Canadian children - everyone of them a real loving individual as a result of failures in the system does not deserve a public inquiry, I don't really know what does.

/// End Gupta Actuality ///

The only person convicted in the bombings, Inderjit Singh Reyat, was originally set to stand trial with Mr. Malik and Mr. Bagri. He made a plea bargain with prosecutors in February 2003 and received a five-year sentenced for the manslaughter of the 329 jet passengers. He previously served ten years for the bombing

in Japan.

The judge dismissed his testimony as a key prosecution witness, saying he was an unmitigated liar and that he was vague, bordering on the absurd.

/// REST OPT ///

Police are estimating the entire investigation will cost about eighty million dollars (one-hundred million dollars Canadian). They also say the investigation into the bombing is ongoing, but will not indicate if there are any other suspects.

The court case itself took over 348 days of hearings.(Signed)

NEB/CM/PT



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