Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Confession' lacked credibility: Canada SC

Confession' lacked credibility

Inquiry head permits main suspect's words into record but says they may not be true
Sep 25, 2007 04:30 AM
- The Canadian Press

OTTAWA–The prime suspect in the 1985 Air India bombing admitted to a role in the attack years later under questioning by Indian police, a public inquiry has been told.

But Talwinder Singh Parmar, head of the militant Sikh separatist group Babbar Khalsa, reportedly insisted, during his 1992 interrogation, that he was a minor player and that others took the lead in hatching the plot that cost 329 lives.

The claims, contained in a summary of the affair presented yesterday by the Punjab Human Rights Organization, were taken with a grain of salt by former Supreme Court justice John Major, the head of the inquiry. He noted that although he was allowing the material to be entered in evidence he wasn't making any call at this point on how credible it might be.

"It's a document that forms part of this record," said Major. "It may be true, it may not be true."

Mark Freiman, chief counsel for the inquiry, also cautioned against drawing any "hasty conclusions," while the RCMP maintained there was little it hadn't already seen in its long-running effort to bring the bombers to justice.

Insp. Lorne Schwartz testified the Mounties first became aware of the supposed Parmar confession in 1997 and spent years pursuing the leads it provided – even though they suspected that anything Parmar had told police in the Punjab was extracted under torture.

Parmar was arrested in British Columbia soon after the bombing but was never convicted for the downing of Air India Flight 182. He slipped out of Canada a few years later.

Indian authorities maintained he was killed in a shootout with police in 1992, but there have been claims for years that he was captured alive and questioned, then put to death in what amounted to an extra-judicial execution.

In what was said to be a police summary of his interrogation, he claimed the Air India bomb plot wasn't his idea and he wasn't enthusiastic about it when it was proposed by others.

Nevertheless, he went along and "agreed to arrange (for) the dynamite sticks," Parmar was quoted as saying in material tabled yesterday.

He attempted to shift much of the blame to Lakhbir Singh Brar, a former head of the International Sikh Youth Federation, and Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only person ever convicted in a Canadian court.

Two other Parmar associates, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, were acquitted at trial in Vancouver two years ago.

In the purported 1992 confession, Brar was identified as the mysterious "Mr. X" – as he was then known to Canadian investigators – who accompanied Parmar and Reyat to an explosives test in the woods near Duncan, B.C., a few days before the bombing of Flight 182.

But Schwartz said Brar didn't match the physical description of Mr. X provided by a surveillance team from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

There were also other discrepancies between the confession and facts known to the Mounties through other sources. Nevertheless, investigators looked into possible links between the Sikh youth federation and Babbar Khalsa.

Rajvinder Singh Bains, the legal counsel for the Punjab Human Rights Organization, said the group conducted its own investigation of the affair after Malik and Bagri were acquitted.

Bains said yesterday his organization approached the RCMP in late 2005 and again in 2006 to try to share what it had discovered about the Parmar confession.

Bains and Sarabjit Singh, the secretary general to the human rights group, met the Mounties again last weekend to hand over additional material, including tape recordings related to the affair.

The recordings did not include tapes of Parmar's purported confession, Bains said.

Courtesy_
http://www.thestar.com

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