AIR INDIA TRIAL

Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri face eight counts, including murder, in two bombings of Air India planes on June 23, 1985. The first bomb exploded at Tokyo's Narita airport, killing two baggage handlers. Fifty-four minutes later, Air India Flight 182 exploded off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 on board.

Air India story traced from mundane to momentous
Vancouver Sun

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Michael Quinn, an air traffic controller from Shannon, Ireland.
CREDIT: Chuck Stoody, Canadian Press

CHAPTER 1: DEADLY CARGO

The opening phase focused on the purchase of airline tickets used in the plot and the loading of baggage at Vancouver and Toronto airports.

Witnesses included former CP Air employees Martine Donahue, Gerald Duncan and Jeanne Bakermans, who testified they were connected to the purchase of two tickets in the name of M. Singh and L. Singh that were used to check bags believed to contain bombs onto two flights leaving Vancouver on June 22, 1985.

Donahue, who has become a regular trial watcher, testified she booked the tickets for a caller with a Punjabi accent who insisted the flights must connect with Air India routes heading in opposite directions around the globe.

Duncan described a man who arrived and paid cash for the two tickets a couple of days before the flights were to leave.

Bakermans' testimony was the most dramatic. She said she remembered a man who insisted on sending his bag onto the Air India flight out of Toronto even though he did not have a confirmed reservation. She said she relented and tagged the bag for Air India flight 182 because an impatient queue of 30 waited.

Baggage handlers who worked in Vancouver and Toronto testified about how they loaded bags onto flights back then. Security guards testified that a scanner used to check Air India bags wasn't working the day the bomb-laden bag was loaded.

CHAPTER 2: A GRISLY TASK

The second part of the trial dealt with the downing of the plane and the recovery efforts. The evidence was the most difficult for many of the family members attending.

The Crown called Michael Quinn, an Irish air traffic controller who fought back tears when he described how the Air India flight disappeared from the radar screen at Limerick's Shannon airport.

Irish and British naval rescuers also cried when they recalled arriving at the ocean site of the crash and seeing the bodies bobbing up to the surface.

"Every time we looked out the door we could see more and more bodies appearing" Royal Air Force commander John Brooks said.

CHAPTER 3: CONSPIRACY TO KILL

The Crown laid out its theory about the conspiracy to bomb two Air India planes to retaliate against the Indian government for its attack in June, 1984 on Amritsar's Golden Temple, Sikhism's holiest shrine.

Another motive for the bombings was to aid in the Sikh separatist struggle to create an independent country called Khalistan, court was told.

Defence lawyers admitted that their clients had associated with suspected Air India mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar in the weeks and months before the terrorist attack.

CSIS surveillance photos were entered showing both Malik and Bagri at Parmar's Burnaby home around the time of the bombings. Inderjit Singh Reyat, who pleaded guilty in February, 2003 to manslaughter for supplying the bomb components, was called as a chapter three witness. While Reyat admitted being asked by Parmar to build a bomb to blow up things in India, he did not implicate Malik and Bagri.

CHAPTER 4: CONFESSIONS AND CONFIDANTES

The longest and most dramatic chapter in the case so far began in October and ended last week. The Crown presented direct evidence against Malik and Bagri, highlighted by witnesses testifying about alleged confessions they had heard from each of the accused men.

A former daycare supervisor at Malik's Khalsa School was the star witness against him. She testified Malik confessed his role in the bombing plot to her on two occasions in 1996 and 1997. She said he confided in her because they had fallen in love, although that love was never consummated.

"We'd Air India crashed," the woman, who is in the witness protection program, quoted Malik saying in a May 1996 journal entry.

The woman said Malik started turning against her after the confession. She said she only agreed to enter witness protection after someone approached her at a mall and commented they would use "an AK-something" to kill her loved ones.

Crown witness Narinder Singh Gill testified that Malik went to his house in 1997 and urged Gill not to talk to the police, even offering to pay for Gill's lawyer.

Two other witnesses, both with protected identities, testified that Malik asked each of them to carry a bomb-laden suitcase to the airport some time before the bombing. Both men said they refused.

Videotaped speeches of Bagri calling for the retaliatory murder of 50,000 Hindus led the chapter four evidence against him: Police witnesses described Bagri's derogatory comments about Hindus.

But the first key Crown witness was a woman who claimed not to remember any incriminating information she once provided CSIS and police about Bagri.

The Vancouver seamstress, who won a permanent ban on publishing her name, testified she never feared Bagri and didn't recall telling investigators he came to borrow her car on the eve of the bombings to go to the airport.

"Only the bags would be travelling," Bagri told her, according to the statements she made to CSIS.

One of the most colourful Crown witnesses in the chapter was "John," a former FBI informant and boyhood friend of Bagri who was paid $460,000 by the RCMP after agreeing to testify.

John testified that Bagri confessed his role in the Air India bombing outside a New Jersey gas station in the summer of 1985.

A British professor describes how a bomb in the belly of the plane tore it open, causing the nose and tail to fall off
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun


April 30, 2004
ANATOMY OF AN EXPLOSION: These images of ...

...a controlled explosion, taken ...
...from a DVD entered as ...
...evidence at the Air India trial, ...
...show how a Boeing 747 breaks up ...
...after a bomb is detonated.
CREDIT: Vancouver Sun

The bomb that killed 329 people aboard Air India Flight 182 was at least four times more powerful than the one that downed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, an expert testified in B.C. Supreme Court Thursday.

British professor Christopher Peel testified that he was able to estimate the size of the bomb by looking at the pressure needed to cause the damage seen on the wreckage of the Air India plane known as Kanishka.

He then compared that with his studies of the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270, as well as a controlled test bombing of a Boeing 747 conducted in 1997 at Bruntingthorpe in the U.K. by his research agency.

"In approximate terms, I think we are looking at a device four or five times larger in Kanishka than that used at either Lockerbie or Bruntingthorpe," Peel told Justice Ian Bruce Josephson.

Peel also said a defence theory that the bomb was in baggage area 51 and not next door in 52 is impossible, according to his calculations.

"It's just physically impossible," Peel said of the theory put forward by defence lawyers for suspects Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik.

With detailed drawings, Peel showed Josephson how wreckage from area 51 is not consistent with a bomb blast having occurred in that area. The fact that some large floor pieces from 51 were recovered prove it could not have been the epicentre of the blast, he said.

"That would have been blasted away," he said of the relatively intact floor area.

He also said a major fuselage crack in the area of 51 was running in the wrong direction for the bomb to have been in that region.

Crown prosecutor Bob Wright asked Peel about the baggage area 51 theory in a pre-emptive strike. The defence is due to begin cross-examining the renowned specialist, who studies aircraft bombings, in the coming days.

The trial is relocating today to a secret warehouse where part of the Air India jet has been reconstructed from recovered wreckage, as well as simulated pieces fashioned on photographed and videotaped wreckage.

Over three days on the stand, Peel has corroborated the Crown theory that the bomb was loaded into baggage area 52 on the left rear of the plane.

That is consistent with the device being within a suitcase checked in at Vancouver International Airport on June 22, 1985 by a mysterious man called Mr. Singh, who insisted his bag be sent on to the ill-fated Air India flight, even though he did not have a confirmed reservation.

If the bomb-laden luggage was in baggage area 51, as the defence contends, it would have originated at Pearson International Airport and could not be linked to the two B.C.-based Sikh separatists on trial for mass murder.

Wright asked Peel to describe the final break-up of the plane after the bomb detonated off the coast of Ireland.

"The bomb goes off. A hole is blown very rapidly. Small amounts of material are ejected from the hole. A significant crack forms and runs forward ...A significant crack forms and runs aft," Peel said. "The belly of the aircraft is effectively split open and starts to part like the sides of a clamshell."

As the plane opened up from its underbelly, throwing everything inside out, Peel said vertical cracks started travelling upwards. The front end and the tail of the plane fell off. Within a second, major pieces of the plane disintegrated as they fell towards the sea.

He showed how the beams of a piece of passenger floor were bent outwards from the point where he believes the bomb was located.

All the recovered wreckage, supported by underwater photos of other pieces, is consistent with the bomb having been in baggage area 52, Peel concluded.

The Crown alleges Malik and Bagri were part of a group of B.C. Sikh separatists who targeted Air India to retaliate for the Indian army attack on the Golden Temple, Sikhism's holiest shrine.

[Air India]
Crown closes case in jet bomb trial
Defence begins by rebutting testimony of witness last fall
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

VANCOUVER - Lead Air India prosecutor Bob Wright closed the Crown's case Tuesday, thanking defence lawyers for unprecedented admissions that meant at least 520 fewer witnesses had to be called at the international terrorism trial.

Instead, the Crown focused on about 80 witnesses over the past 13 months as it tried to prove its case against accused bombers Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri.

"Obviously if agreement could not have been reached, more witnesses would have been required, more exhibits would have had to have been entered and the trial would have been considerably longer," Wright said.

"It would have required calling slightly over 600 witnesses ... You can do the math and imagine how lengthy this process would have been without these admissions."

Justice Ian Bruce Josephson also acknowledged the enormous efforts of the lawyers involved.

Wright said there are a couple of outstanding issues that may require the Crown's case to be reopened if there cannot be agreement between the defence lawyers and prosecutors.

The defence case is expected to take several more months before Josephson deliberates on the evidence he has heard.

Later Tuesday, Malik lawyer David Crossin began the defence case by calling two separate witnesses who provided documentation to contradict testimony of a Crown witness last fall.

Narinder Singh Gill said he travelled with Air India suspect Balwant Singh Bhandher from Calgary to Seattle for a religious program that he believed was held just before the Air India bombing.

Gill testified that he saw Malik, Bagri and Inderjit Singh Reyat, as well as Malik's spiritual leader, Bhai Jiwan Singh, at the Seattle meeting.

He also testified that Bhandher, who has never been charged, brought his wife and children along on the trip and that they all travelled in Bhandher's brown van. The star witness against Malik, a former Khalsa School employee who says he confessed, also testified that Malik told her Bhandher's van was used to transport bomb-laden suitcases to Vancouver International Airport on June 22, 1985.

 
[Air India]
Reyat's wife is trial's mystery witness
Spouse of the only man convicted in Air India case had fought order to testify at investigative hearing
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun


Thursday, June 24, 2004
The mystery witness who fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada over a new anti-terrorism law is Satnam Kaur Reyat, the wife of the only man convicted in the Air India bombing so far.

Reyat lost her court battle Wednesday on the 19th anniversary of the bombing and can now be compelled to testify at an investigative hearing to explore knowledge she is believed to have about the 1985 terrorism plot.

The Vancouver Sun has known Reyat was the mystery witness since last year, but had to keep her name confidential until winning the right to publish it Wednesday.

But the ruling upholding the anti-terrorism law may have come too late to be of assistance to the Crown's case against accused Air India bombers Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri.

Prosecutor Joe Bellows wrote to Reyat's lawyer, Howard Rubin, last February and said Satnam Reyat would not be required to testify at the Air India trial, despite being under subpoena for months.

In addition, the Crown has closed its case against Malik and Bagri as the defence phase of the international terrorism trial continues.

Crown spokesman Geoff Gaul said senior prosecutors and the RCMP are reviewing the court's written reasons before commenting on the status of Reyat's investigative hearing, which started last year in secret, but was adjourned pending her appeal.

"The Supreme Court of Canada has made a positive statement in upholding the constitutionality of the investigative hearing and has properly recognized such a hearing as a tool for the police to use," Gaul said.

Rubin said Wednesday that his client did not react when he told her about losing the case.

He described her as a traditional Sikh woman who has never been considered an Air India suspect. "She's a woman who is involved with her children and things like planning weddings."

Because the Supreme Court ruling specifies that spousal privilege applies in investigative hearings, she could not be questioned about anything her husband told her, Rubin said.

"It's clear from the judgement that they can't cross-examine her about communications with Reyat," he said. "I don't know what else they want to question her about."

Inderjit Singh Reyat pleaded guilty in February 2003 to manslaughter for his role in the Air India bombing. He was sentenced to five years in jail and has waived his right to a parole hearing that had been scheduled in September.

Inderjit Reyat was also convicted in the death of two baggage handlers at Tokyo's Narita Airport. They were killed when a bomb exploded in a Vancouver suitcase less than an hour before the Air India bombing.

Satnam Reyat is living in the Hamilton area, where one of her daughters had an arranged marriage last summer to the son of a former leader of the terrorist Babbar Khalsa separatist group.

Her name has come up repeatedly at the Air India trial.

If the investigative hearing goes ahead, Satnam Reyat would undoubtedly be questioned about events and people connected with the case.

Her husband testified last fall that an unidentified man dubbed Mr. X arrived at his house shortly before the bombing and was greeted by his wife.

[Air India]
Witness for accused contradicts testimony
Jit claims to have mixed up conversations with informant
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun


August 18, 2004
VANCOUVER - A defence witness for accused Air India bomber Ajaib Singh Bagri contradicted Tuesday earlier testimony he gave at the international terrorism trial.

New York cabbie Kamal Jit said Tuesday he did not warn Bagri's family about the suspect's imminent arrest, despite claiming to have learned of it a week before it happened from a key Crown witness known as John.

But last week, Jit told Justice Ian Bruce Josephson that he tipped off Bagri's brother Amrik Singh after John informed him in October 2000 that Bagri was about to be arrested.

When the contradiction was pointed out to Jit Tuesday by prosecutor Richard Cairns, Jit suggested he must have been mixing up two different conversations with John.

But Cairns suggested that Jit never warned the Bagri family at all because the conversations he claimed to have had with John about the Air India bombing "simply did not take place."

Much of the testimony Tuesday focused on how much English Jit knows and whether he was trying to avoid answering Crown questions.

At one point, a frustrated Cairns argued that Jit was "totally in contempt of court" by pretending not to understand "very simple questions," even with the assistance of a Punjabi interpreter.

Jit suggested prosecution notes quoting him in English must be wrong because his language skills are too poor for him to have given the answers attributed to him.

Jit did not deny making statements to Cairns during a meeting at his U.S. home last May that was also attended by the FBI and RCMP.

But when the notes were read back to him, he said through the interpreter: "Had I been able to speak that much English then I would not be a taxi driver now. I would be doing a better job."

Jit was called by the Bagri team to refute the evidence John, an FBI informant who was a boyhood friend of both Bagri and Jit in their home town of Chak Kalan.

John, whose real identity is shielded by court order, testified last spring that Bagri confessed his involvement in the Air India bombing outside a New Jersey gas station a few weeks after the June 1985 attack.

But Jit testified that John told him he was pressured by the FBI into being a witness, that Bagri was innocent and that Bagri's comments to John had been misconstrued.

According to Cairns' notes of the May 2004 meeting in New York, Jit bolstered John's evidence to the Crown and confirmed that Bagri had confessed to John, an FBI informant.

"Ajaib Singh said 'We did it' at Avtar Singh's gas station," Jit told Cairns earlier, quoting the conversation about which John testified.

But Jit claimed Tuesday he did not understand what Cairns asked him in May, even though he provided full answers in English.

"I can't speak that much (English) now. I couldn't speak that much before," Jit said through the interpreter.

Cairns responded by playing Jit a tape-recording of answers the witness gave at the international terrorism trial on the opening day of his evidence Aug. 9.

Jit appeared to understand the questions asked of him in English by Bagri defence lawyer Richard Peck and provided answers in English, some of which were several sentences long.

[Air India]
Air India witness wants a vacation
Vancouver Sun

August 19, 2004
VANCOUVER - After a week of gruelling cross-examination, a defence witness for accused Air India bomber Ajaib Singh Bagri asked the judge to allow him to finish his testimony today so he can go on vacation with his family.

In a bizarre ending to a confusing and tedious day of testimony, Kamal Jit directly addressed Justice Ian Bruce Josephson through an interpreter.

"I miss my family, my wife has holidays from the school and I would like to go on holidays with my family," Jit said.

Jit's plea came a few hours after Bagri defence lawyer Richard Peck asked for a limit to be placed on Crown prosecutor Richard Cairns' questioning, calling it repetitive and abusive.

Cairns responded that the cross-examination has been dragged out because of Jit's unwillingness to openly respond to questions, forcing them to be repeated through an interpreter.

Josephson allowed Cairns to continue, but urged him to simplify his questions in order to speed up the process.

And the judge suggested that Jit's credibility had already suffered over the last several days of questions.

"The credibility field seems to have been well-tilled already," Josephson said.

Jit, a New York cabbie, was called by the Bagri team to refute the evidence of a Crown witness known as John, an FBI informant who also hails from Bagri's Punjabi village of Chak Kalan.

John, whose real identity is shielded by court order, testified last spring that Bagri confessed his involvement in the Air India bombing outside a New Jersey gas station a few weeks after the June 23, 1985 terrorist attack.

Bagri and co-accused Ripudaman Singh Malik are charged with murder and conspiracy in two June 1985 bombings that targeted Air India.

[Air India]

Crown digs at 'false evidence'

3 of 4 Bagri witnesses changed stories about 'John' lying
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun


August 20, 2004
VANCOUVER - People close to accused Air India bomber Ajaib Singh Bagri conspired "to put up false evidence" at the international terrorism trial of Bagri and co-accused Ripudaman Singh Malik, prosecutor Richard Cairns suggested Thursday.

Cairns suggested Bagri's brothers in Canada and India looked around for witnesses who would be prepared to lie for the accused terrorist and came up with four people who all hail from Bagri's ancestral Punjabi village of Chak Kalan.

While one of those men testified at the trial, the other three all changed their story when a prosecution team went to India to interview them a few months ago, Cairns told Justice Ian Bruce Josephson Thursday.

But Bagri lawyer Richard Peck said the only reason the men changed their story is because they felt intimidated by Cairns, the RCMP and Indian police, who plucked them from their fields and took them to a police station in another town.

All four men earlier gave affidavits to the Bagri defence team suggesting that a key Crown witness known as John had admitted he was lying when he implicated Bagri in the Air India bombing.

Cairns made the allegations against Bagri associates in the final days of his cross-examination of Kamal Jit, a boyhood friend of Bagri's who drives a cab in New York.

"It is the Crown's theory that Mr. Jit was put up to it by somebody," Cairns told Josephson. "He is part of this -- if you want to call it -- conspiracy to put up false evidence."

Cairns said the other men, including Bagri's brother Piara Singh, had been prepared to come to court and lie to discredit John, an FBI informant who testified that Bagri confessed to him.

Jit has testified that John, who also lives in New York, has a bad reputation and admitted lying about Bagri's confession because the FBI was pressuring him.

Cairns said that comments discrediting John attributed to Jit and the three Punjabi residents were mentioned by Peck during John's cross-examination last spring. But when Cairns and prosecution team members went to Punjab to meet the men, "all three of them denied making any of the statements," he said.

Only Jit came to testify because he "is the last man standing."

"If he is here lying, it is part of a plan," Cairns said as the witness waited outside the courtroom.

Peck told Josephson he has seen no evidence of the conspiracy to which Cairns alluded.

The trial has heard that Jit signed a statement at his New York home in the presence of the Bagri legal team's investigators -- Pary Dulai of Surrey and Jack Cloonan of New Jersey. Dulai once headed a group called Sikh Vision, whose website glorifies suspected Air India mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar as a martyr and features a picture of Dulai wearing a vest from the terrorist group Babbar Khalsa.

Cloonan, a former FBI agent, was featured in the hit documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, in which he criticized the FBI for not doing enough to stop terrorists. He testified on behalf of Bagri in July.

Dulai went to Chak Kalan and got the other statements attacking John, court has been told.

[Air India]

Defence suggests rift between suspects

VANCOUVER I Lengthy phone call that was tapped has two Babbar Khalsa members disparaging Bagri
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun


Saturday, August 21, 2004
A rift had developed between accused Air India suspect Ajaib Singh Bagri and the suspected mastermind of the bombing plot in months before Canada's deadliest act of aviation terrorism, a defence lawyer suggested Friday.

Michael Code pointed to a lengthy phone call in April 1985 between Burnaby's Talwinder Singh Parmar and a Kamloops Babbar Khalsa member, in which they were disparaging Bagri for his suspected affair with a Vancouver woman.

Parmar and Satnam Singh Khun Khun, of Kamloops, discussed kicking Bagri out of the Babbar Khalsa because of the love affair.

The telephone call is contained in 54 wiretaps saved by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in the months before and after the June 23, 1985 Air India bombing.

Hundreds of other intercepts of Parmar's phone calls were erased by Canada's spy agency in a blunder that Justice Ian Bruce Josephson says violated Bagri's Charter rights.

Bagri's legal team told Josephson Friday that there is an agreement between the defence teams and the Crown to admit the rest of the tapes to prove that certain calls were made between Parmar and others.

Code said the pattern of calls show that Parmar, who was killed by Punjab police in 1992, had suspicious conversations with many people, but not Bagri, who was the number two man in the Babbar Khalsa behind Parmar at the time.

Code said if Josephson looks at all the CSIS surveillance of Parmar, all the long-distance calls, as well as the 54 tapes, a much fuller picture of the bombing conspiracy emerges and "there is no involvement from Ajaib Singh Bagri."

CSIS wiretaps have never before been admissible in a criminal case. So far, the content of the calls has not been accepted as evidence, just the fact that certain calls were made. But Code clearly pointed to the content of the calls Friday when he referred a Bagri team translator to several of the conversations Parmar had with other Sikh leaders at the time.

In the weeks before the Air India bombing, Parmar spoke of a trip to Toronto in early June for a conference at which Bagri was to speak. Parmar discussed the conference with Hamilton Babbar Khalsa leader Tejinder Singh Kaloe in one call.

Kaloe also made reference about talking to contacts in Cincinnati, who were unable to get "the thing" Parmar wanted because "they say you require a licence."

Code said the most frequent caller to Parmar was Surjan Singh Gill, a former Babbar Khalsa member who is alleged to have backed out of the bombing plot at the last minute. He now lives in England and has never been charged. Code referred to a call between Parmar and Air India co-accused Ripudaman Singh Malik, in which they discussed helping out three sacred Sikh shrines in Pakistan by getting them the ceremonial cloths that hang over the Sikh holy book, as well as the small stage on which the book is placed.

Parmar told Malik that he knows the Pakistan temples need the materials because "Surjan Singh and Ajaib Singh have come from there."

Code said he takes exception to some of the RCMP translations of the intercepted calls, which were mostly in Punjabi.

[Air India]
Man 'forgets' Air India testimony
Can't remember what he said in court a week ago, Baltimore storekeeper tells prosecutor
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - A witness for Air India bombing accused Ajaib Singh Bagri claimed he'd forgotten significant parts of his earlier testimony during cross-examination Monday.

Balbir Singh Gharala, who owns a liquor store in Baltimore, told the international terrorism trial last week that he lied to U.S. immigration authorities about when he entered the country as an illegal alien in his early 20s.

But Monday he said he could not remember that testimony and told Crown prosecutor Richard Cairns that he had never lied to U.S. immigration.

Cairns read Gharala parts of his evidence from last week, but the 43-year-old native Punjabi claimed not to remember, prompting Cairns to remark: "This was just a week ago."

Last week, Gharala said he arrived in New York in 1981 but claimed in his immigration application that he had entered the country in 1985.

He was adamant Monday: "I didn't lie to immigration authorities."

Gharala is a former roommate of a key Crown witness known as John, who testified that Bagri had confessed outside a New Jersey gas station, within weeks of the terrorist attack, that he was involved in the bombing.

John, whose real identity is protected by court order, had become an FBI informant who was paid for information he provided on militant Sikh separatists including Bagri.

John told Justice Ian Bruce Josephson last spring that he borrowed Gharala's car to meet Bagri in New Jersey. He said he was so surprised at Bagri's comments about the bombing that he later shared them with his roommates, including "Balbir Singh."

Last week, Gharala disputed John's account, claiming John had never borrowed his car and that he had never been told of an alleged Bagri confession.

On Monday, he conceded to Cairns it was possible his roommate used his car while he was at work because he always left a set of keys in their apartment.

And he agreed with Cairns' suggestion that John may have shared the alleged Bagri confession with some of the roommates while he was home, but that he was not paying attention at the time.

He denied ever telling anyone he was afraid of John. The trial was earlier told that Gharala feared the Crown witness.

Cairns reminded Gharala about answers he gave the prosecutor during a meeting in Baltimore earlier this month.

Cairns suggested Gharala told him that roommate Gurmit Singh regularly borrowed Gharala's car. John testified that Gurmit Singh had accompanied him to New Jersey the day he heard Bagri confess.

But Gharala said Monday: "I didn't loan the car to Gurmit Singh."

He claimed not to remember the answers he gave to Cairns during their Aug. 2 interview.

Gharala also said Monday that he did not know a driver's licence he bought from a man in a restaurant in 1985 was a "fake" and that he had lied to state authorities by registering his car in someone else's name.

Cairns' cross-examination of Gharala lasted a few minutes, in contrast to week-long cross-examination of the last Bagri witness.

Bagri lawyer Michael Tammen asked Gharala to clarify comments last week that he expected to receive $500 US a day for the time he is in Canada at the trial.

[Air India]

Bagri defence dwells on phone tapes that CSIS did not erase
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

VANCOUVER - Several Sikh leaders in Ontario, the U.S. and Kamloops had more contact with suspected Air India mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar in the weeks before the terrorist attack than accused bomber Ajaib Singh Bagri, a defence lawyer suggested Tuesday.

Bagri lawyer Michael Code pointed to a pattern of telephone calls between Parmar, who headed the terrorist group Babbar Khalsa, and a series of leaders in the Toronto area, Cincinnati and Kamloops.

The calls are documented in wiretap reports by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which was monitoring Parmar's calls from March to September 1985.

While hundreds of tapes of the intercepted conversations were erased by CSIS, 54 were preserved and have become exhibits at the trial of Bagri and co-accused Ripudaman Singh Malik.

So far, Justice Ian Bruce Josephson has not ruled on whether the content of the calls can be relied on as evidence in the international terrorism trial.

The calls have been accepted only for the purpose of establishing a relationship between the parties involved.

But for a second day Tuesday, Code focused on the contents of some of the calls to show Parmar's close relationship with Sikh leaders other than Bagri during the critical phase before the Air India bombing on June 23, 1985.

Code noted that Parmar had regular calls with Satnam Singh Khun Khun, another Babbar Khalsa leader who appeared to be distrustful of Bagri because he believed the accused bomber was having an extramarital affair with a Vancouver woman.

Parmar was killed while in the custody of Punjab police in October 1992.

None of the other men referred to by Code has been charged in the bombing, which remains Canada's deadliest mass murder.

Bagri defence lawyers indicated earlier at the trial that they intend to point to Sikh leaders in Ontario as likely suspects in the terrorist bombings over their client.

Code mentioned telephone calls to the Hamilton health food store of Tejinder Singh Kaloe, who was the Ontario Babbar Khalsa leader at the time.

He also named other Toronto-area men who talked regularly with Parmar when the bombing was allegedly being planned as Charn Singh and Lakhbir Singh Nirwan.

Other calls highlighted by Code were between Parmar and Gurmit Singh Gill, who lives in Kamloops and was a director of the Babbar Khalsa at the time.

Code referred to an RCMP report that noted one Parmar associate held a meeting at his Kamloops home on June 15, 1985, a week before the bombings.

Code also told Josephson that the Crown and Malik defence team have agreed to admit 39 CSIS surveillance reports on Parmar during the same few months in 1985 to show with whom the charismatic leader was associating.

Bagri's legal team was to call its final witness Tuesday, but the mystery man, who is travelling from another country, did not arrive as scheduled.

Code said the witness, who was not identified in court, should be here today to complete his direct evidence.

The Crown plans to call several rebuttal witnesses after the defence wraps up its case this week.

Final arguments in the massive trial are expected in October, after a break to prepare submissions.

AIR INDIA: DAY 187

[Air India]
Court told about 5 suspicious flights
They occurred in the weeks before the bombings, a defence lawyer says
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun


Thursday, August 26, 2004

VANCOUVER - Suspected Air India mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar had accomplices in Toronto who flew to B.C. just two days before two bomb-laden suitcases were checked in at Vancouver International Airport, B.C. Supreme Court was told Wednesday.

Michael Code, defence lawyer for accused bomber Ajaib Singh Bagri, told the court of five suspicious flights by Parmar and his associates in the weeks before two bombings that targeted Air India on June 23, 1985.

Three men, travelling under the names L. Singh, G. Singh and Joga Singh, flew to Vancouver June 20, 1985.

The person who booked the tickets provided the home number of a Toronto man named Charn Singh Aheer, who had regular phone contact with Parmar, according to wiretap evidence.

Late on the evening of June 20, a group of several "east Indian" men were seen by members of Canada's spy agency arriving at Parmar's Burnaby home.

"These men likely were the three men who came from Toronto," Code told Justice Ian Bruce Josephson.

The identities of several key players in the Air India bombing conspiracy have remained a mystery for years despite the best efforts of investigators. For example, no one has positively identified the two men who checked in the suitcases believed to have contained the bombs at Vancouver airport on June 22, 1985, .

Nor has a Toronto man dubbed Mr. X -- who accompanied Parmar to Duncan in early June, 1985, to meet bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat and do a test explosion -- been identified.

Code suggested a series of airline tickets, along with evidence about who purchased those tickets, casts some light on the Air India mystery.

The tickets, from May and June 1985, were entered as exhibits at the international terrorism trial Wednesday after agreement between defence teams and Crown prosecutors.

Bagri's lawyers believe the tickets, as well as phone records and surveillance reports by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, show that several other Sikh leaders had much more contact with Parmar than did Bagri in the critical days before the terrorist attacks that killed 331 people.

Air India suspect Surjan Singh Gill purchased two more tickets leaving Vancouver to Toronto for the afternoon of June 22, 1985. The flight left after the second suitcase destined for an Air India flight had been checked in, Code explained.

Gill now lives in England and has never been charged in the bombings.

The two June 22 tickets were for an Air Canada flight in the names of B. Singh and S. Singh. They were purchased from Friendly Travel on Victoria Drive in Vancouver. The agency owner, Amarjit Singh Pawa, was considered an Air India suspect when he died several years ago. He booked many of the tickets for Parmar and his associates over the years.

Code suggested that Mr. X flew to B.C. in April and returned to Toronto late on the evening of June 3, 1985, arriving the next day. Again, the contact number provided was that of Aheer in Toronto.

Reyat pleaded guilty to manslaughter for his role in the Air India bombing and is now serving a five-year sentence. He was called as a Crown witness against Bagri and Malik last fall, but refused to reveal the identity of Mr. X or anyone else in the plot.

[Air India]
Crown accused of disclosing evidence too slowly
Papers regarding a witness weren't revealed until six weeks after she testified, defence lawyer says
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - A lawyer for accused Air India bomber Ajaib Singh Bagri says Crown prosecutors are delaying disclosure of evidence related to defence witnesses in the mass murder case.

Michael Tammen Thursday complained to Justice Ian Bruce Josephson that the prosecution failed to disclose documents regarding one of his witnesses until six weeks after the woman testified.

Tammen said he would have used the material, records from the Insurance Corporation of B.C. regarding vehicle ownership, to re-examine Jagdish Kaur Johal while she was on the stand.

But he said he only received the records from the Crown on Aug. 20 -- more than a month after Johal completed her testimony.

Johal testified that she and her brother -- Air India suspect Avtar Singh Narwal -- borrowed Bagri's car on the weekend of June 21, 1985 to drive from Kamloops to Vancouver to do some shopping.

Bagri's vehicle was seen by members of Canada's spy agency outside the Burnaby home of suspected Air India mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar on the evening of June 21, although the agents could not positively identify its occupants.

Crown prosecutor Richard Cairns has suggested that Bagri drove the vehicle to Vancouver because he was involved with the final planning phase of the Air India bombing.

A Crown witness who was once a close friend of Bagri told police that the accused terrorist visited her Vancouver home right before the bombings and asked to borrow her car to leave some bags at the airport.

Cairns undermined Johal's testimony in July when he got her to admit that her family had access to several vehicles, while the Bagri family had just one car.

But Tammen said Thursday that Cairns misled the witness by getting her to agree that her brother purchased a pick-up truck on June 20, 1985 -- the day before the trip to Vancouver.

Tammen said the ICBC record actually shows the truck was not insured until July 1, 1985, meaning that Johal and Narwal did not have the ability to use it for their trip.

But Cairns countered that ICBC had indicated to the prosecution team that the truck was insured to be driven from the June 20, 1985 purchase date.

Tammen said he was raising the issue now because the Bagri team believes the Crown has collected evidence on defence witness Gurmit Singh Kalotia, who is due to be cross-examined today.

Tammen said the defence needs to see the material the Crown plans to use during cross-examination before deciding what questions to ask on re-direct.

Cairns said the Crown was fully aware of its disclosure obligations.

Josephson urged the prosecution to make the disclosure as timely as possible.

Kalotia appeared briefly on the stand Thursday to decline a request by Cairns for an interview before his cross-examination.

The New Jersey restaurant owner was brought by the Bagri team to discredit a key Crown witness known as John, who claims Bagri confessed to him.

Kalotia earlier agreed to be interviewed by Cairns, but after seeking legal advice, he said Thursday: "I can answer any question of the prosecutor in the courtroom, not out of here."

Bagri and co-accused Ripudaman Singh Malik are charged with eight counts, including murder and conspiracy, in two bombings that targeted Air India and killed 331 persons. The first blast ripped through Tokyo's Narita Airport and killed two baggage handlers who were transferring suitcases from Vancouver to an Air India flight. Less than an hour later, Air India Flight 182, en route from Toronto to India, exploded off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 aboard.

The Crown alleges the pair were part of a group of B.C. Sikh separatists who targeted India's national airline to retaliate for the Indian Army attack a year earlier on the Golden Temple, Sikhism's holiest shrine.

AIR INDIA: DAY 189

 

[Air India]

Outcome unclear as defence rests
Whether Bagri and Malik are found guilty in 1985 bombing could come down to final arguments
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun

CREDIT: Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun
An RCMP officer stands guard during a media tour of wreckage from the Air India crash.

After 18 months, 190 court days and more than 100 witnesses, the outcome of the most serious criminal case in Canadian history may come down to which of the top lawyers at the Air India trial makes the most compelling final arguments.

The unprecedented international terrorism trial is entering its final stage after the conclusion of the defence case.

Lawyer Richard Peck, who represents accused bomber Ajaib Singh Bagri, officially closed his case Monday after calling 13 witnesses. The other alleged terrorist, Ripudaman Singh Malik, completed his case in June. Neither man took the stand in his own defence. The prosecution finished its evidence in May, but may call a few rebuttal witnesses next week.

While both sides say they are pleased with the way the international terrorism trial has gone, no one is predicting an outcome.

All Peck would say to reporters as he left court Monday was that his case had gone well.

5 HIGHLIGHTS

Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri stand accused of two bombings of Air India planes in 1985. The first bomb exploded at Tokyo's Narita airport, killing two baggage handlers. Fifty-four minutes later, Air India Flight 182 exploded off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 on board. There have been many dramatic moments in the 18-month long evidence phase of their trial. Reporter Kim Bolan singled out these ones for their significance and sheer courtroom drama:
1. A star witness testified last November that Malik had fallen in love with her and twice confessed to his role in the bombings. She then faced threats and attacks that forced her into the witness-protection program.
2. Irish and British seamen broke down on the stand in May 2003 when testifying about struggling to recover the damaged bodies of Air India Flight 182 passengers.
3. Dramatic videotaped speeches played in January 2004 showed Bagri shouting for the retaliatory murders of 50,000 Hindus and describing the violent end that traitors to the Sikh separatist cause would meet.

4. A British scientist pointed in April 2004 to the exact spot where he believes the bomb was located among the huge pieces of wreckage reconstructed at a secret Vancouver warehouse.
5. Convicted bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat casually described in September 2003 his unsuccessful efforts to build bombs at the request of suspected plot mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar.

Justice Ian Bruce Josephson, who has presided over the case, has been keenly attentive to the witnesses for all sides. He has often praised the quality of the legal arguments he has received on issues that have risen regularly over the months.

And it may be that those legal arguments will be the deciding factor in whether Bagri and Malik will be convicted or found not guilty of charges that they conspired to build two terrorist bombs that killed 331 people in June 1985.

Martine Donahue, a former CP Air reservations agent, testified for the prosecution in the first week of the trial about taking a phone call from a mystery man who booked the tickets allegedly used to check in bomb-laden suitcases.

Donahue, who is almost 78, has been a fixture in the courtroom for much of the trial, attending as often as possible.

She was there again Monday, when Peck and lead prosecutor Robert Wright indicated the evidence phase is all but complete.

But Donahue said it is impossible to predict the outcome at this point.

"It depends on the judge. I'm sure he's fair," Donahue said. "I thought there was enough evidence that they were guilty and that they were involved in this."

CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE

When the trial opened on April 28, 2003, Wright promised a dramatic few months of testimony. He said the horrific deaths of the 331 bombing victims would be relived by those who tried to save them, that people close to the accused would take the stand and tell the court the two men had confessed, and that forensic experts would say with relative certainty where the bomb that brought down Air India Flight 182 was placed aboard the aircraft.

But from Day One, pundits and amateur observers alike commented on the circumstantial nature of the Crown's case and the fact that defence lawyers were already attacking the credibility of prosecution witnesses.

The defence argued from the start that there was no forensic evidence linking the accused to the June 23, 1985 Air India bombing or the same-day blast at Tokyo's Narita Airport.

They assailed the credibility of the Crown witnesses, describing them as bitter, broke people who were vindictive and attempting to get their piece of the $1-million reward offered by the RCMP to solve Canada's biggest mass murder.

[Air India]
Acquit Bagri, lawyer tells Air India trial judge
Defence lawyer Michael Code said the case against the accused bomber is unconvincing
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - The case against accused Air India bomber Ajaib Singh Bagri is so weak that he should be acquitted of any involvement in the bombing deaths of 331 people, defence lawyer Michael Code said Tuesday.

Code told Justice Ian Bruce Josephson he might not even need to consider what to do about the fact that Bagri's Charter rights were violated when Canada's spy agency erased hundreds of hours of phone calls of alleged Air India conspirators.

Code said that if Josephson concludes the Crown's case is not strong enough for a conviction, the judge does not need to consider what remedy would compensate for the violation of Bagri's rights.

"It will be our position that the Crown's case is simply too weak to support a conviction," Code said. "There are extraordinary weaknesses in the Crown's case."

Code offered a glimpse into what the Bagri defence team will argue when final submissions in the international terrorism trial begin Oct. 18.

Code said the bulk of his final submissions will focus on the fact the Crown's case does not support a conviction because the two main witnesses are unreliable.

The experienced Toronto lawyer convinced Josephson not to consider the Charter remedies until hearing the closing arguments next month.

Lead Crown prosecutor Robert Wright had argued that Josephson should hold a hearing before the final submissions, in case the judge decides that a suitable remedy for the Bagri team would be to include or exclude evidence.

"We are going to have great delays in the final submissions if the evidence changes," Wright said. "We need to finalize what the evidentiary issues are going to be."

Josephson accepted Code's arguments that it is better to wait until the final arguments before deciding any remedies.

Josephson has ruled twice during the massive terrorism case that Bagri's rights were violated.

He agreed with the Bagri team that the erasure by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service of the intercepted calls of alleged mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar was unacceptable.

And Josephson also ruled that Bagri's rights were violated again when CSIS failed to hang on to original notes and tapes of interviews with a key Crown witness against Bagri.

That woman, whose identity is protected by court order, claimed in testimony not to remember incriminating statements she gave to CSIS and the RCMP implicating Bagri in the Air India bombing.

But Josephson accepted some of her statements to the agencies over her sworn testimony because he said she was so fearful of retribution that she feigned memory loss at the trial.

The woman told investigators that Bagri came to her Vancouver home just before the Air India bombing and asked to borrow her car to leave some bags at the airport.

The woman claimed Bagri visited her in June 1985 and then again that fall. She said they had largely ended their friendship by the time the June 23, 1985 bombings occurred.

But Wright told the court Tuesday about police surveillance of another visit by Bagri to the woman's home in July 1985.

[Air India]

Expert report ends Crown rebuttal in Air India trial
Aviation specialist defends his stance that bomb was in the same hold as a case from Vancouver
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - Crown prosecutors in the Air India case ended their rebuttal evidence on Wednesday, almost 18 months after the trial began.

Lead prosecutor Robert Wright presented to the court a supplementary report from British aviation expert Prof. Christopher Peel.

The report concludes that the bomb that brought down Air India Flight 182 in June, 1985, was stored in a cargo hold that also contained a suitcase from Vancouver. Peel's report says several main pieces of wreckage support his theory about the bomb's location. He testified last April at the trial, but prepared the additional report to refute the conflicting testimony of another British expert, Dr. Edward Trimble, who testified after Peel on behalf of the defence.

Trimble concluded that the bomb that brought down the Boeing 747, killing all 329 aboard, was probably in a cargo hold containing baggage that originated in Toronto. The two conflicting bomb locations were less than a metre apart, the trial has been told.

If the bomb had been checked in at Toronto's Pearson Airport, it would bolster the defence's theory that Sikh separatists in Ontario, who were affiliated with the militant Babbar Khalsa group, were behind the bombing.

Lawyers for accused bomber Ajaib Singh Bagri have told Justice Ian Bruce Josephson that phone records and airline tickets point to several Ontario militants being connected to the conspiracy. Those same records do not in any way implicate Bagri, they have argued.

Bagri's legal team will argue when the case resumes for a day on Sept. 18 that Bagri's Charter rights have been violated by the prosecution's late disclosure of information involving defence witnesses. The trial will then adjourn until October 18 when final submissions will begin.

Bagri and co-accused Ripudaman Singh Malik are charged with eight counts, including murder and conspiracy, over the two bombings that targeted India's national airline and killed 331 people.

The first bomb exploded at Tokyo's Narita Airport and killed two baggage handlers who were transferring a Vancouver bag onto an Air India flight. Less than an hour later, Air India Flight 182, en route from Toronto to India, exploded off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 aboard.

The Crown alleges the two were part of a group of B.C. Sikh separatists who wanted revenge against the Indian government for its attack on the Golden Temple.

[Air India]
Air India suspect's son quits credit union post
Jaspreet Singh Malik was accused of conflict and lying
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun

CREDIT: Ward Perrin, Vancouver Sun files
Jaspreet Singh Malik was under investigation.

THE PROVINCE - The eldest son of Air India bombing suspect Ripudaman Singh Malik has resigned as a director of the Khalsa Credit Union after government regulators alleged he had been in a conflict of interest and lied under oath.

The Financial Institutions Commission had asked lawyer Jaspreet Singh Malik to step down last summer, but the 29-year-old son of the accused terrorist indicated to FICom that he would fight the move to oust him and a hearing had been set for Oct. 18.

However Jaspreet Malik changed his mind and submitted a letter of resignation to the commission this week.

Ken Fraser, FICom's executive director of investigations, said Jaspreet Malik's resignation automatically cancels the hearing set for later this month.

Many of the allegations against Jaspreet Malik arose from his testimony in August 2003 to aid his father's unsuccessful bid to receive continued government funding for his Air India defence team.

A wealthy businessman at the time of his arrest, Ripudaman Malik had claimed he was broke, owed hundreds of thousands to his relatives and needed legal aid to fund his team of lawyers in the international terrorism case.

Jaspreet Malik, his mother and two of his brothers all testified on behalf of the funding application, claiming the family fortune had declined and that the elder Malik owed them large sums of money in back wages.

But Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein said Malik senior remained a multi-millionaire and that the testimony of his family was "unbelievable."

The Financial Institutions Commission notified Jaspreet Malik in late May that it wanted him to resign from the Khalsa Credit Union board -- just a month after his April 2004 election. His father founded the institution in 1986 and remained its head until after his arrest on terrorism charges in October 2000.

Jaspreet Malik refused to comment on his resignation when contacted by The Sun Thursday.

The Law Society of B.C. is also investigating issues raised in the funding hearing.

"I can confirm that the professional conduct department is looking into the issues raised by Madame Justice Stromberg-Stein in her decision," society spokesman Brad Daisley said.

Satwant Singh Sandhu, another credit union director, said in an interview that the board would appoint someone in Malik's place to serve until the April 2006 election.

"We have a meeting this Saturday for accepting Jaspreet's resignation," said Sandhu, who also testified at the Air India trial to refute an earlier witness's claim that Sandhu was involved in the 1985 bombing.

Sandhu said he didn't really know about the FICom allegations against the younger Malik because he had just "glanced at" the FICom notice.

"It is their sort of family decision or maybe personal that he thinks it is going to take time and he may not be able to serve his clients properly. Those are the reasons that I have been given," Sandhu said. "I haven't seen the full decision. I didn't read it. I just glanced at it."

A copy of the notice of hearing laid out the FICom concerns against Jaspreet Malik.

[Air India]
Important evidence kept from defence team, lawyer says
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun

ROW I A key Crown witness against accused Air India bomber Ajaib Singh Bagri contradicted his earlier testimony in an RCMP statement that was not disclosed to defence lawyers for weeks, B.C. Supreme Court was told Friday.

Bagri lawyer Michael Code argued that his client's Charter rights were violated when the Crown prosecutors failed to disclose two summer conversations the witness had with the RCMP until after the defence had closed its case.

Code said the Bagri team is seeking a declaration -- the third of the massive terrorism trial -- that Bagri's rights were violated and that some remedy is in order.

That could take the form of a different weight being put on the cross-examination of certain defence witnesses because of the Charter breach, Code suggested to Justice Ian Bruce Josephson.

Code said there has been a pattern of late disclosures by the prosecution of "highly relevant" evidence to the defence.

He said that when the Bagri team asked about the late disclosure, it was told that the Crown did not think the material was relevant.

"The explanation was obviously very disconcerting to us," Code said. "What else has been withheld on the basis of the same rationale."

Code complained specifically about two RCMP conversations from July and August 2004, involving the Crown witness known as John, who was an FBI informant claiming Bagri had confessed to a role in the June 1985 bombing.

John testified last spring that after hearing Bagri confess a few weeks after the bombing, he shared the disturbing information with his roommates, including a man named Balbir Singh. Balbir Singh later testified that he had never been told about a confession.

John allegedly told RCMP Inspector Russ Nash during the summer that Balbir Singh likely wasn't home when he told his roommates about Bagri's alleged confession.

Code said he would have asked Singh about some of the assertions John made later to the RCMP if the information had been disclosed.

He also complained that the Crown withheld an ICBC document for weeks that he would have used to re-examine another defence witness named Jagdish Kaur Johal. Johal testified that she, her brother and niece borrowed the Bagri family's only car on the weekend of the Air India bombing to travel from Kamloops to Vancouver for some shopping.

The car was seen by Canadian spy agency officials outside the Burnaby house of the alleged Air India mastermind -- Talwinder Singh Parmar -- on the evening of June 21, 1985. Crown prosecutor Richard Cairns asked Johal about a number of vehicles to which her family had access at the time and why they would have taken the Bagri family's only car instead. In fact, one ICBC document showed that Johal's extended family may have had access to one less car than the Crown suggested.

Crown prosecutor Gordon Matei said Bagri's Charter rights were not violated because the information was not relevant and did not change the way the defence would have proceeded.

He explained that all three instances raised by the defence relate to information uncovered by the Crown when it was scrambling to collect material on defence witnesses of which it had not been given prior notice.

[Air India]
U.S. judge allows bail for Vancouver lawyer
Kim Bolan

Vancouver Sun

SEATTLE - A U.S. judge Tuesday upheld an earlier ruling allowing B.C. lawyer Kuldip Singh Chaggar to be released on $50,000 US bail, but said the decision was "a close call."

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnick said he hesitated before making the ruling to release Chaggar, who is charged with witness tampering, because of "how vigorously" the U.S. attorney had argued to keep Chaggar in custody pending his trial.

Assistant U.S. attorney Todd Greenberg told Lasnick that to let Chaggar out would further endanger the witness who is the subject of the complaint against the B.C. lawyer, best-known for his defence of convicted Air India bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat.

Greenberg called the witness, Sunita Vartia, a "20-year-old girl" who was devastated when Chaggar first visited her Sept. 13 at a federal detention centre south of Seattle and allegedly urged her to change a statement she had provided implicating one of his clients.

"The nature and circumstances of this offence are about as troubling to the government as they could be," Greenberg said, alleging that Chaggar threatened Vartia, bribed her and attempted to intimidate her.

"I have seen in her eyes the effect that these statements had on her."

Vartia then cooperated with U.S. officials who tape-recorded two subsequent phone calls and a second meeting between Vartia and Chaggar.

In one of the taped conversations, Vartia seeks reassurance from Chaggar that co-accused members of a drug trafficking ring in Canada are not going to do anything to her.

Chaggar said he didn't know what the others would do, but said "these guys" went to see Vartia's grandfather "just the other day."

Greenberg argued that Chaggar's comment about the visit to Vartia's grandparent is an "implied threat" which illustrates that Chaggar knew that his meetings with Vartia "were part of a larger, coordinated effort to intimidate and threaten Vartia."

Vartia, a Lower Mainland resident, was arrested in eastern Washington state last July trying to smuggle 51 kilos of cocaine across the Washington-B.C. border. U.S. authorities believe she is a low-level courier used by a boyfriend and others involved in a more complex drug trafficking gang.

Greenberg argued that Chaggar not only visited Vartia in jail, signing in as her lawyer, but also saw two other defendants in custody even though they were represented by other lawyers.

And he even suggested Chaggar's breach of a publication ban in the Air India trial was part of a pattern by the B.C. lawyer of attempting to intimidate witnesses in cases in which he has an interest.

Chaggar published an article last April in the Indo-Canadian Voice which provided details related to the family of a Crown witness covered by a ban on publication. Chaggar apologized to the court and no charges are being pursued against him in the matter.

Chaggar's lawyer, Robert Leen, told Lasnick that Chaggar was an esteemed member of the B.C. bar with no complaints against him, and a respected Indo-Canadian community leader.

He provided 1,200 names on a petition urging Chaggar to be released on bail.

Leen said "in our society, liberty is the norm. Detention prior to trial is the exception."

He claimed Chaggar only went to Vartia because she had contacted him through her former boyfriend -- Chaggar's client in the drug trafficking case.

Leen said Chaggar has a completely different version of events than that presented by Vartia, but that the detention hearing is not the appropriate time to argue the facts of the case.