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Reyat to appeal Air India perjury conviction

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 Friday September 10, 2010.

Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press

Families of the victims who died aboard an Air India plane when a bomb exploded say they're disappointed that the only man ever convicted in the crime is appealing a perjury conviction and sentence.

Inderjit Singh Reyat, 58, said in his notice of appeal filed Tuesday that the judge erred in law, misdirected the jury and failed to tell jurors there was no evidence to support portions of the Crown's closing address.

Mr. Reyat was convicted last November of lying 19 times at the trial of two other men who were charged with mass murder and conspiracy and later acquitted.

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Mr. Reyat is now appealing his nine-year sentence imposed last month, saying it's "harsh and excessive" and that a new trial should be ordered.

Perviz Madon, whose husband Sam was killed in the June 23, 1985 bombing, said she was relieved when Mr. Reyet was convicted of perjury - seven years after lying at the trial.

"I know that he has the right to appeal but I just hope that he's denied," she said. "That's all I can hope for."

As part of a plea deal, Mr. Reyat pled guilty in February 2003 to supplying bomb parts housed in a suitcase that exploded aboard Air India Flight 182, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean after leaving Montreal for London with 329 people aboard.

He received a controversial five-year sentence in exchange for testifying at Mr. Bagri and Mr. Malik's trial, after already serving a decade behind bars for another bombing on the same day when a suitcase meant for a second Air India plane exploded at Tokyo's Narita Airport, killing two baggage handlers.

In his notice of appeal, Mr. Reyat said B.C. Supreme Court Judge Mark McEwan erred in instructing jurors that they only had to conclude he lied once out of the 19 occasions the Crown said he was untruthful in order for him to be found guilty of perjury.

Judge McEwan also said each juror didn't need to agree on which statement made by Mr. Reyat was false when he testified in September 2003 at the trial of Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik.

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Mr. Reyat's lawyer and the Crown had agreed to that instruction to the jury. The guidance was similar to instructions received by jurors trying former Saskatchewan politician Colin Thatcher, who was convicted of killing his ex-wife in the early 1980s.

In that case, jurors didn't have to be unanimous on whether Mr. Thatcher killed his wife or was a party to the offence.

Until Mr. Reyat's case, the longest sentence ever handed down for perjury was six years in an Alberta case.

In sentencing Mr. Reyet, B.C. Supreme Court Judge Mark McEwan said the former auto electrician had refused to tell the truth about what he knows and that his expressions of remorse "ring hollow to me."

After Mr. Reyat was sentenced, families of the victims said they were relieved the entire saga that began more than 25 years ago would now be behind them.

Major Sidhu, who lost his sister, niece and nephew in the bombing of Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985, said Tuesday that Mr. Reyat should have told the truth at Bagri and Malik's trial if he doesn't want to spend more time in prison.

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"I'm disappointed," he said of the appeal.

Special prosecutor Len Doust had asked for a sentence at the high end of the 14-year maximum, saying Mr. Reyat's lies robbed the victims' families of justice.

Mr. Reyat was given credit for 17 months of time already served, leaving him seven years and seven months in prison.

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