[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March 2005, 23:01 GMT
Air India suspects are not guilty
Defendants Ripudaman Singh Malik (left) and Ajaib Singh Bagri
Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri denied involvement
A Canadian judge has found two Canadian Sikhs not guilty over the bombing of an Air India jet almost 20 years ago.

Flight 182 blew up in mid-air over the Atlantic Ocean off the Irish coast in 1985 while it was travelling from Canada to India, killing 329 people.

The judge said the prosecution, which alleged the men were seeking to punish India for its crackdown on Sikhs, had failed to prove its case.

There were credibility issues with the witnesses testifying against both men.

The case has been one of the most complex and lengthy in Canadian history.

'Tragedy'

Vancouver businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik, 58, and 55-year-old Ajaib Singh Bagri, a sawmill worker, were arrested in 2000 and charged with a list of offences including murder.

DEAD, JAILED AND ACQUITTED
Inderjit Singh Reyat
Talwinder Singh Parmar - the mastermind. He was killed by police in India in 1992
Inderjit Singh Reyat - admitted assisting with the construction of the bomb, but denied knowing its intended target. Jailed for five years in 2003
Ripudaman Singh Malik - acquitted of financing the bomb plot.
Ajaib Singh Bagri - acquitted of transporting the bomb to Vancouver airport.

The men, who were both born in India, denied any involvement in the crime.

Outside court Mr Bagri repeated his denial, calling the loss of life an "enormous tragedy".

Rattan Singh Kalsi, whose daughter died on Flight 182, said the case should not have come to court.

"We were suffering but now we are suffering more," he said.

The prosecution case against Mr Malik turned on three witnesses, all of whom claimed he had confessed some involvement in the crime to them.

British Columbia Supreme Court Judge Ian Bruce Josephson said he found factual errors and credibility problems with each of the witnesses.

"Despite the horrific nature of the alleged crimes, there can be no lowering of the standard of proof from that required in any criminal trial," he said.

Delivering his verdict against Mr Bagri, he said there was clear motive to commit the bombing but the evidence did not support it, although the judge reiterated that the conspiracy was hatched in Vancouver.

It was, he said, an act of fanaticism at its basest and most inhumane.
HAVE YOUR SAY
The Canadian police have clearly failed in their efforts
Nagarajan, Rolla, USA

Prosecutors had taken 13 months to present evidence, after a 15-year investigation. There was no jury in the trial.

The BBC's Ian Gunn in Vancouver says some evidence was lost or destroyed, and two potential witnesses were murdered.

The prosecution had accused the men of helping to plant the bomb on the Air India jet in revenge for the Indian army's 1984 storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sikhism's holiest shrine.

A second bomb, in luggage to be loaded on to another Air India flight, exploded on the same day at Tokyo's Narita airport, killing two baggage handlers.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why the credibility of key witnesses was questioned



RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific