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Accused sought revenge, Air-India trial told

Attacks on Sikhs by the Indian government ignited a thirst for revenge in a Vancouver businessman so strong he didn't blink at blowing up children to get it, a Crown prosecutor said yesterday.

Ripudaman Singh Malik was pushed over the edge in 1984 when Indian troops stormed one of Sikhism's most cherished shrines, Joe Bellows contended in closing arguments in the Air-India bombing trial.

The soldiers killed hundreds of worshippers who were demanding a separate homeland.

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Mr. Malik was living in Vancouver at the time and became obsessed with the creation of Khalistan, an independent state for his people, Mr. Bellows said.

In his pursuit of it, "the death of one child means nothing. The death of 328 means nothing. What matters is Khalistan."

Mr. Malik set out to show the Indian government that Sikhs were powerful and would stop at nothing to gain independence, Mr. Bellows said. The millionaire, along with Kamloops sawmill worker Ajaib Singh Bagri, is charged with conspiring with others to detonate bombs on two planes travelling on opposite sides of the world.

"He [Malik] wanted to send a message: 'If we can do this, we can do anything. We will continue until you give us Khalistan,' " Mr. Bellows said.

One bomb downed Air-India flight 182 on June 23, 1985, killing 329 people, mostly Canadians. The second went off prematurely, the Crown charges, killing two baggage handlers in Tokyo.

Mr. Bellows said Mr. Malik's guilt in the plot is proved by four key pieces of evidence.

Testimony by witnesses that Mr. Malik asked them to physically deliver bombs onto planes;

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His attempts to obstruct the investigation into the Air-India case and the Narita Airport bombing;

Evidence of financial assistance to the man who admitted he helped make the explosives used in the attack;

A detailed confession to an ex-employee who testified the two were in love.

Mr. Bellows began his closing argument by trying to bolster the credibility of the Crown witnesses.

The defence maintains the witnesses made up their stories, motivated by anger against Mr. Malik for his treatment of them in business deals and by the $1-million reward for information on the case.

One man who claimed Mr. Malik asked him to take bags to the airport had declared bankruptcy, but Mr. Bellows said that doesn't make the 73-year-old Vancouver man a liar.

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"Would he run the risk of disgracing himself in the eyes of his family and impugning their reputation along with his own?" Mr. Bellows asked the court.

The team of Crown prosecutors is going over the case in great detail in closing arguments, determined not to leave any questions in the mind of Mr. Justice Ian Josephson.

Mr. Malik's involvement will be the focus for rest of the week.

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