Thursday, November 2, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

AI bombing accused was ‘not escaping’

VANCOUVER, Nov 1 (PTI) —Ripudaman Singh Malik, one of the Sikhs accused of murdering 329 persons in the 1985 bombing of Air- India Flight 182, was preparing to travel to Pakistan when he was arrested, according to his lawyer.

But, his lawyer, Terry La Liberte denied that his client was planning an escape. “Anybody that knows Malik knows he travels extensively,” National Post newspaper quoted him as saying.

Vancouver businessman Malik, 53, and Ajaib Singh Bagri, 51, both accused in the case, made a brief appearance in the British Columbia provincial court on Monday and Judge Jane Godfrey ordered both men to be held in jail until their next court appearance on November 30.

On Friday, Malik and Bagri were arrested and charged with eight counts, including first-degree murder, in connection with the Air-India Flight 182 disaster off the coast of Ireland on June 23, 1985, in which 329 persons died.

The charges also include the attempted sabotage of another Air- India Flight heading to Bangkok. A bomb in baggage was to be loaded on that flight, but prematurely exploded in Tokyo’s Narita Airport, killing two baggage handlers.

Mr La Liberte told the court that he would challenge the prosecution to give details of its case in a preliminary hearing.

Malik contended that the prosecution would use a direct indictment to route the case to trial without sketching out the evidence in court.

“I would love to have a preliminary hearing on several issues but I would doubt we will have that opportunity,” he said on Monday while terming a preliminary hearing as a “tool for testing the evidence before trial....I doubt they would hold one here.”

Mr Geoff Gaul, a spokesman for British Columbia prosecutors, said the prosecution would say nothing outside the court about its tactics regarding the two accused.

Meanwhile, the third man arrested in connection with the Air India bombing was released on Monday but the police was still calling him a suspect in the mass murder, according to Vancouver Sun newspaper.

Constable Cate Galliford said “suspect number three has been released with no charges”.

While the police did not identify the third suspect, his own employer, the Vancouver school board, confirmed it was Hardial Singh Johal, a building engineer.

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