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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 03:50 GMT
Sikh jailed for Air India bombing
Air India crash 1985
The crash off the coast of Ireland killed 329 people
A Sikh man has received a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to the bombing of an Air India jet in 1985, which killed all the passengers on board.

Inderjit Singh Reyat
Inderjit Singh Reyat: Already jailed for Tokyo blast (pic courtesy of CBC)
Inderjit Singh Reyat - who has British and Canadian citizenship - was charged by a Canadian court with 329 counts of manslaughter - one for each of the people who died in the blast.

Two other men also stand accused in connection with the bombing.

The sentencing came as a surprise, although prosecution lawyers say they now concede that Reyat's role in the bombing was relatively small.

Reyat, a former worker at Jaguar's UK car plant in Coventry, stood but said nothing as his punishment was read out in court.

'Small role'

Flight 182 from Montreal to Delhi exploded over the Atlantic Ocean on 23 June 1985, killing all the mainly Canadian passengers on board.

Golden temple in Amritsar
It is thought the bomb was in retaliation for the storming of the Golden Temple

Many of the victim's bodies were never found.

Reyat's plea, and subsequent sentence, had raised speculation that he may testify against the other suspects, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, in their trial which is due to begin later this year.

However his lawyer now says that his client has not agreed to testify or aid the prosecution of the others in any way.

Reyat has already served 10 years in prison in the United Kingdom for his part in an explosion at Tokyo's Narita Airport which took place an hour before the Air India plane blew up, killing two baggage handlers.

Noting this sentence, Chief Justice Donald Brenner accepted prosecutor Robert Wright's recommendation that he serve a five-year sentence.

With the time he has served while waiting for trial, he will eventually serve almost 25 years in prison.

BBC correspondent Ian Gunn said that prosecutors have also now conceded that Mr Reyat's part in the bombing was small, that he doesn't know who planted the explosives and that he never knew that the bomb was to be used on a civilian jetliner.

All of this suggests he has much less to contribute to the trial than many had assumed, he adds.

Huge investigation

It is suspected that both bomb attacks were in retaliation for the Indian Army's storming of the Sikh holy shrine, the Golden Temple, in 1984.

Until 11 September 2001, the Air India bombing stood as history's most deadly case of air sabotage.

The investigation into the attack is the largest the Canadian police force has ever undertaken.

The courtroom in Vancouver where the trial of the two other defendants will take place has been specially fortified at a cost of several million dollars.

The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
"It's thought it was revenge for India attacking Sikhism's holiest shrine"
See also:

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