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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 December 2004, 02:23 GMT
Air India trial closes in Canada
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Final arguments in the trial of two Sikhs accused of bombing an Air India passenger jet have concluded, 19 months after the case began.

Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri are accused of planting a pair of bombs on Air India jets in June 1985.

One plane exploded over the Atlantic, killing all 329 people. The second bomb killed two baggage handlers in Tokyo.

British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson said he will deliver his decision on 16 March 2005.

Both men deny the allegations.

The trial, which started in April 2003, has been one of the most exhaustive and expensive in Canadian history.

Final arguments lasted a month. In total, the court heard 115 witnesses at a cost of at least $100m.

'Admitted involvement'

Police allege the bombings were done by a group of Vancouver-based Sikh militants who wanted revenge on the Indian government for the 1984 storming of Sikhism's Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Mr Bagri is alleged to have been a religious activist, urging fellow Sikhs in New York to "kill 50,000 Hindus".

Defendants Ripudaman Singh Malik (left) and Ajaib Singh Bagri
Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri deny the charges

The prosecution's case was based largely on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of two witnesses, who say Mr Malik and Mr Bagri independently admitted their involvement in the plot after the bombs exploded.

Key witnesses have testified that the accused asked them to take a suitcase to Vancouver airport but not to get on the flight.

Prosecution lawyer Robert Wright said the guilt of the two men had been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

"This is, in our submission, a politically motivated and terrorist event... consistent only with a political and religious zealotry," he said.

Mr Bagri, a mill worker from Kamloops, BC, and Mr Malik, a wealthy Vancouver businessman, say the prosecution witnesses who linked them to the attacks lied out of revenge or for financial gain.

The defence said the case against the two men was flawed.

Defence lawyer David Crossin said a woman witness might have testified against Mr Malik simply because she was a disgruntled employee.

A third defendant, Inderjit Singh Reyat, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge last year before the trial started.

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