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Concern raised over living arrangements of man convicted in Air India bombing

Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only man ever convicted in the Air India bombings of 1985, waits outside B.C. Supreme Court during a fire drill which forced everyone in the building outside prior to the start of the second day of his perjury trial in Vancouver, B.C., on Sept. 10, 2010.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The only man convicted in the Air India bombing, newly allowed to live at home instead of a halfway house while he completes a perjury sentence, has no interest now in anything beyond spending time with his family, his lawyer says.

Last week, it was disclosed that the Parole Board of Canada had decided to let Inderjit Singh Reyat live at home.

"He's still an inmate who is serving the end of his sentence on parole. He is finally able to live at home with his family for the first time since he was on bail many years ago," lawyer Ian Donaldson said.

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Mr. Reyat has been living in a halfway house for a year after completing two-thirds of his nine-year sentence for perjury in the trial of two other men accused in a pair of incidents in 1985 – one involving Air India Flight 182 – that killed 331 people.

News of the clearance to allow him to live at home has raised concerns, with some people suggesting it's odd the parole board is taking the word of a man convicted of perjury, and also raised concerns that he may continue to be a threat.

Mr. Donaldson noted that Mr. Reyat has been held in custody for much of the past 30 years. Before his perjury conviction in 2010, Mr. Reyat served more than 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in connection with the bombs planted on a pair of Air India flights that left Vancouver. One device exploded on Air India Flight 182 near Ireland, killing 329 passengers and crew. The other killed a pair of baggage handlers at Narita airport in Japan.

Mr. Reyat, now in his late 60s, admitted to acquiring parts for the bombs used in the attack. No one has ever been charged with actually making the bombs or bringing them to Vancouver's airport.

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He was convicted of perjury linked to the acquittal of two co-accused in the case, spurred by the struggles for an independent Sikh homeland.

"There's a person who has served every day of two out of three sentences imposed on him. It's a remarkable length of time for anybody to spend in custody for the convictions he has," said Mr. Donaldson.

"He is a person who has been significantly punished for his misdeeds – the most substantial of those occurred in 1985," he said. "Since his arrest and during his incarceration, he has had a perfect institutional record."

Mr. Donaldson acknowledged the gravity of the matters that brought Mr. Reyat before the criminal justice system, but noted that Mr. Reyat had a relatively small role in the situation. "The way all of this was going to play out was unknown to him at the time."

A newly released parole document said officials had concluded Mr. Reyat has renounced the cause that inspired the attack, but expressed concerns about triggers inspiring him to new violence. It said there are no indications Mr. Reyat is communicating with "negative associates who might hold extremist views or be involved in political activity."

It also said Mr. Reyat was taking psychological counselling and has been "highly accountable" for his activities and whereabouts.

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Mr. Donaldson concurred. "There is absolutely no reason anybody should think he poses a danger to anybody ever at this stage of his life."

Mr. Reyat, formerly an auto mechanic and electrician from the Vancouver Island community of Duncan, will remain under the supervision of the parole board until he officially completes his sentence in August, 2018.

The RCMP said in a statement issued last week that they are continuing their investigation but declined to quantify resources on the file or provide any other details. Mr. Donaldson, who declined to say when he last spoke to Mr. Reyat, said he did not know if the RCMP was talking to him. "I can't imagine that would be a productive thing to do."

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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