Monday, 20 February 2017

Mass murder of 329 people on an Air India flight 

The Air India Flight 182 was an Air India flight operating on  the Toronto-Montreal-Lomdon-Delhi  route on June 23, 1985. The plane was a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. 

The plane consisted of 22 crew members and 307 passengers. Of the passengers, 86 were children,  including 6 babies. There were 29 entire families on the plane. Two children not on board had both parents on board. There were six sets of children with their entire families. There were 32 people not on the aircraft who had the remaining members of their families on board. The passengers and crew comprised of 268 Canadian citizens, 27 Britons and 24 east Indians. Most of the Canadians were of East India descent. Many of the passengers were going to visit families and friends in India. Most of the victims resided in southern Ontario and were Hindus. Some of the victims were Sikhs of which around 35 passengers were Sikhs from Greater Montreal. In terms of metropolitan areas, the Greater Toronto Area was the home of the majority of the passengers, with Greater Montreal also having the next largest number of passengers. Some passengers originated from British Columbia. 45 passengers were employees of Air India or relatives of Air India employees.

At 07:14:01 GMT, the crew of the Boeing 747 squawked “2005” (a routine activation of its aviation transponder) as requested by Shannon Airport Air Traffic Control (ATC), then disappeared.

A bomb in a Sanyo radio tuner in a suitcase was placed in the forward cargo hold had exploded while the plane was at a height of 31,000 feet (9,400 m).  Such a turner was a radio turner which probably had its guts removed and filled with the explosive material.

The explosion caused rapid decompression and the break-up of the aircraft in mid-air. The wreckage settled in 6,700 feet (2,000 m) deep water off the south-west Irish coast, 120 miles (190 km) offshore of County Cork.

No mayday" call was received by Shannon ATC. ATC asked aircraft in the area to try to contact Air India, to no avail. By 07:30:00 GMT, ATC had declared an emergency and requested nearby cargo ships and the Irish Naval Service vessel  Aisling to look out for the aircraft. By 09:13 GMT, the cargo  ship  Laurentian Forest discovered wreckage of the aircraft and many bodies floating in the water. 

Only 132 bodies were recovered. The remaining 197 bodies were lost at sea. Eight bodies exhibited "flail pattern" injuries, indicating that they had exited the aircraft before it hit the water. This was a sign that the aircraft had broken up in mid-air. Twenty-six bodies showed signs of hypoxia (lack of oxygen). That would have been caused while they were in the air where there were no oxygen..  Twenty-five, mostly victims who were seated near windows, showed signs of explosive decompression. Twenty-three had signs of "injuries from a vertical force". Twenty-one passengers were found with little or no clothing. In my opinion, these people must have been close to the explosion and were blown out of the plane while it was still flying hundreds of miles an hour. Their clothes would have been torn off at that speed. Imaging if you will, the pain they would have suffered flying that speed in the freezing cold air while naked. Fortunately for them, because they had no oxygen in their lungs, their deaths would have come quickly.

 All victims whose bodies were stated in reports had died of multiple injuries. Two of the dead, one infant and one child, are reported to have died of asphyxia. There is no doubt about the asphyxia death of the infant. In the case of the other child, there was some doubt because the findings could also be caused due to the child undergoing tumbling or spinning with the anchor point at the ankles. Three other victims undoubtedly died of drowning. Two of these drowning victims, were pregnant and one woman was in her second trimester while carrying her unborn son.

Dr. John Hogan in testimony given at a coroner's inquest convened in Cork on September 17, 1985 said in part about the pregnant woman;

"The other significant findings were large amounts of frothy fluid in her mouth and nostrils, and all of the air passages and the lungs were water-logged and extremely heavy. There was water in the stomach and the uterine. The uterus contained a normal male fetus of approximately five months. The fetus was not traumatized and in my opinion death was due to it drowning.

Additional evidence to support a bombing was retrieved from the broken up aircraft which lay on the sea bed at a depth of 6,700 feet (2,000 m). The British vessel Guardline Locator, equipped with sophisticated sonar, and the French cable-laying vessel Léon Thévenin, with its robot submarine Scarab, were dispatched to locate the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) boxes. The boxes would be difficult to find and it was imperative that the search commence quickly. By July, 4, the Guardline Locator detected signals on the sea bed. On July 9, 1985 Scarab pinpointed the CVR and raised it to the surface. The next day, the FDR was also located and recovered.

Within hours of the loss being made public,  Canada's Indian community was a focus of attention as victims and among hints that officials were investigating connections to the Sikh separatists who had threatened and committed acts of violence in retaliation against Hindus. In the subsequent worldwide investigations over a period of six years, many threads of the plot were uncovered.

It was learned that both the voice and flight recorders had  cut out at the same time, and damage to parts recovered from the forward cargo bay consistent with a blast, established that it was probably a bomb near the forward cargo hold that brought the plane down suddenly. The flight was also soon linked to the earlier planned bombing in Japan which had also originated from Vancouver; tickets for both flights had been purchased by the same person, and in both cases the planes were carrying bags without the passenger who checked them in. Nowadays, that raises a suspicious eye if a passenger is on a flight where its destination is some considerable distance from the original starting point. 

No bomb parts were recovered from the ocean, but investigations of the blast at Tokyo established that the bomb had been placed in a Sanyo stereo tuner of a series that had been shipped to Vancouver in Canada. The RCMP (Federal police) assigned no less than 135 officers to check every store that could have sold Sanyo tuners, leading to the discovery of a recent sale to mechanic Inderjit Singh Reyat in his hometown of Duncan, British Columbia. The RCMP contacted the CSIS intelligence agency and found they were already investigating two Sikh activists in Canada— Reyat and Parma.r

The RCMP learned that CSIS already had wiretaps and had observed the two suspects being at a test site near Duncan B.C during a test blast. They had recovered blasting cap shunts and a paper bundle wrapper from a blasting cap. A search recovered the receipt for a Sanyo Tuner Model FMT-611K with invoice with the name and phone number, along with sales of other bomb components. 

It was not until January 1986 that the Canadian investigators at the Canadian Aviation Safety Board concluded that a bomb explosion in the forward cargo hold had downed the airliner. On February 26, 1986, Supreme Court Judge Kirpal of India presented an inquiry report based on investigation conducted by H.S. Khola (the Khola Report). The report also concluded that a bomb originating in Canada brought down the Air India flight.

Based on observations, wiretaps, searches and arrests of persons believed to be participants, the bombing was determined to be the joint project of at least two Sikh terrorist groups with extensive membership in Canada, the United States, Britain and India. Their motive was to cause two explosions of passenger planes while in the. That decision by the terrorists had been sparked by the June 1984 assault on the Golden Temple by the Government of India.

The main suspects in the bombing were members of a Sikh separatist group called the Babbar Khalsa which is banned in Europe and the United States as a proscribed terrorist group along with other related groups who were at the time agitating for a separate Sikh state called Khalistan in Punjab, India

Talwinder Singh Parmar, was a Canadian citizen born in Punjab and living in British Columbia, was a high-ranking official in the Babbar Khalsa. His phone was tapped by CSIS for three months before the bombing.  He was later killed by the Punjab police in 1992 while he was in a police encounter with the police.

Ajaib Singh Bagri was a mill worker living in Kamloops and a suspect with respect to the bombing of the plane. He said in a 1984 speech, (after Hindu mobs had murdered three thousand Sikhs in Delhi and other places in retaliation for the assassination of the Prime Minister of India by her Sikh bodyguards)  "Until we kill 50,000 Hindus, we will not rest."[  In 2005, a court determined that despite his rhetoric, that he had nothing to do with the bombing of the plane.

Surjan Singh Gill was living in Vancouver as the self-proclaimed consul-general of Khalistan. Some RCMP testimony claimed he was a mole who left the plot just days before its execution because he was told to pull out, but the Canadian government denied that report. He later fled Canada and is believed to be in hiding in London, England.

Hardial Singh Johal and Manmohan Singh were both followers of Parmar and active in the Gurdwaras where Parmar preached. On November 15, 2002, Johal died of natural causes at 55. His phone number was left when ordering the airline tickets, he was seen at the airport the day the luggage was loaded, and he had allegedly stored the suitcases containing the bombs in the basement of a Vancouver school, but was never charged in the case.

Daljit Sandhu was later named by a Crown witness as the man who picked up the tickets. During the trial, the Crown played a video from January 1989 in which Sandhu congratulated the families of Indira Gandhi's assassins and stated that "she deserved that and she invited that and that's why she got it". Sandhu was cleared by Judge Ian Josephson in a March 16, judgment.

Lakhbir Singh Rode was the leader of the Sikh separatist organization —International Sikh Youth Federation. In September 2007, the commission investigated reports, initially disclosed in the Indian investigative news magazine Tehelka that Parmar had allegedly confessed and named the hitherto-unnamed Lakhbir Singh Rode as the mastermind behind the explosions. This claim appeared to be inconsistent with other evidence known to the RCMP, subsequently he wasn`t charged.

On  August 17, 1985, Reyat became a third suspect once the receipt for the tuner was found with his name. On November 6, 1985, the RCMP raided the homes of suspected Sikh separatists Parmar, Reyat, Gill, Johal, and Manmohan Singh. In a four and a half hour interview, Reyat denied all knowledge of the test blast or even knowing Parmar. After he was told the CSIS had seen both of them, he changed his story that Parmar really wanted to build a device powerful enough so that he could take the device back to India to destroy a bridge. He explained that the gunpowder in the test was a failure as the device fizzled. The search of Reyat's house produced a carton with an unusual green tape also found in the Narita blast and a can of Liquid Fire-brand starting fluid matching fragments found at the blast site, along with blasting caps and dynamite, including a pound of dynamite in a bag taken out its original tube casing, though none was consistent with blast residue. Reyat insisted only the clock, relays and tuner had been purchased for other than "good purposes". There was insufficient evidence to hold Parmar as being part of the plot to bomb the plane so charges in that respect were dropped days later.

Bagri would later state before his later trial that he knew he was probably a suspect by October 1985 but he insisted he would have faced charges if there were any evidence he had anything to do with the bombing. It was established by November that it was a man with a Sikh name who probably checked the bag in Vancouver that caused the crash. It wasn’t Parmar since he was not seen in Canada sometime after late 1986, as authorities believed him to be living in Pakistan where he continued operations against India.

Authorities initially lacked evidence to link Reyat directly to either the Narita or Air India blasts and pursue a conspiracy to commit murder charge. Instead, Reyat pleaded guilty on April 29, 1986 to possession of an explosive substance and possession of an unregistered firearm. His sentence was a light $2,000 fine. Just three months later, Reyat moved his family from Canada to Coventry, near Birmingham, in the UK. Reyat was soon hired at a Jaguar factory where he worked for nearly two years.

RCMP Mounties working with prosecutor Jardine and RCMP and Japanese experts eventually determined the components of the bomb from fragments and matched them with items that Reyat possessed or had purchased. Prosecutor Jardine visited Tokyo five times to meet with Japanese authorities, and Canada formally asked that evidence to be sent to Canada. Still lacking sufficient evidence for a murder charge, Jardine recommended two manslaughter charges and five explosives-related counts, resulting in a request to Britain to extradite Reyat, who was arrested on February 5.  1988 as he was driving to the Jaguar car plant. After lengthy proceedings to extradite him from Britain, Reyat was flown to Vancouver on December 13,  1989 and his trial began September 18,  1990. On May 10, 1991, he was convicted of two counts of manslaughter and four explosives charges relating to the Narita Airport bombing. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. I have to presume that the manslaughter charges was the result of a pea deal.

Fifteen years after the bombing, on October 27, 2000, the RCMP arrested Malik and Bagri. They were charged with 329 counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the people on board Air India Flight 182, conspiracy to commit murder, the attempted murder of passengers and crew on the Canadian Pacific flight at Japan's New Tokyo International Airport (now Narita International Airport), and two counts of murder of the baggage handlers at New Tokyo International Airport. It became known as the "Air India Trial"

The trial of Malik and Bagri proceeded between April 2003 and December 2004 in Courtroom 20,[  more commonly known as "the Air India courtroom". At a cost of $7.2 million, the high-security courtroom was specially built for the trial in the Vancouver Law Courts. On March 16. 2005, Justice Ian Josephson found the two accused not guilty on all counts because the evidence against them was inadequate.

On June 6, 2001, the RCMP arrested Reyat on charges of murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy in the Air India bombing. On February 19, 2003, Reyat pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter and a charge of aiding in the construction of a bomb. He was sentenced to five years in prison. He was expected to provide testimony in the trial of Malik and Bagri, but prosecutors were vague.

In February 2006, Reyat was charged with perjury with regard to his testimony in the trial. The indictment was filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia and lists 27 instances in which Reyat allegedly misled the court during his testimony. Reyat had pleaded guilty to constructing the bomb, but denied under oath that he knew anything about the conspiracy.

He previously said that he believed that the bomb was to be used in India to destroy a railway bridge and not to be used to destroy the Air India jet. As such, Canada couldn‘t charge him for what was to happen in India. Further, India couldn‘t have him extradited to India since the bomb wasn‘t sent to India for the purpose of destroying the railroad bridge in India. If there was an Italian citizen on the plane, Italy could then have him extradited to Italy for trial because any Italian harmed anywhere in the world by a criminal; that criminal can be extradited to Italy for trial if he isn’t tried in the country where the crime was committed.

On 19 September 2010, Reyat was convicted of perjury. On January 7, 2011, he was sentenced to nine years in prison.

In March 2014, the British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed Reyat's appeal that the nine-year length of the sentence, the country's longest sentence for perjury, was unfit. The court ruled the gravity of the perjury in such a case was without comparison.

Inderjit Singh Reyat was released by the Canadian National Parole Board on January 28, 2016 after serving 30 years behind bars. He was released from a halfway house less than a month later on February 14, 2017, with restrictions.

Here is an interesting fact to consider. In Canada, the sentence for the crime of murder if only one person is murdered, is a minimum of 25 years in prison. Two years ago, the law was changed. For every victim murdered, the sentences are consecutive. If Reyat had been convicted of the murder of all 329 persons on that flight if that new law was in effect, his sentence would have extended to 8,225 years. He wouldn’t be eligible for release for more than eight centuries from the date of his conviction. Needless to say, he would die in prison long before that.  

What follows is why no-one was charged with the murder of the 329 persons on the Air India flight. 

The Canadian government had been warned by the Indian government about the possibility of terrorist bombs aboard Air India flights in Canada, and over two weeks before the crash, CSIS reported to the RCMP that the potential threat to Air India as well as Indian missions in Canada was high.

In his verdict, Justice Josephson cited "unacceptable negligence" by CSIS when hundreds of wiretaps of the suspects were destroyed.  Of the 210 wiretaps that were recorded during the months before and after the bombing, 156 were erased. These tapes continued to be erased even after the terrorists had become the primary suspects in the bombing. How stupid could these fools be?

Because the original wiretap records were erased, the copies were inadmissible as evidence in court. CSIS claimed the wiretap recordings contained no relevant information, but an RCMP memo states that "There is a strong likelihood that had CSIS retained the tapes between March and August 1985, that a successful prosecution of at least some of principals in both bombings could have been undertaken.

Tara Singh Hayer, the publisher of the Indo-Canadian Times and a member of the Order of British Columbia, provided an affidavit to the RCMP in 1995 claiming that he was present during a conversation in which Bagri admitted his involvement in the bombings. While at the London offices of fellow Sikh newspaper publisher Tarsem Singh Purewal, Hayer claimed he overheard a meeting between Purewal and Bagri in which Bagri stated that "if everything had gone as planned the plane would have blown up at Heathrow airport with no passengers on it. But because the plane was a half-hour to three-quarters of an hour late, it blew up over the ocean."[ On January 24 of that same year, Purewal was killed near the offices of the Des Pardes newspaper in Southall, England, leaving Hayer as the only other witness. On November 18, 1998, Hayer was shot dead while getting out of his car in the garage of his home in Surrey. Hayer had survived an earlier attempt on his life in 1988, but was paralyzed and used a wheelchair. As a consequence of his murder, the affidavit was inadmissible as evidence since hearsay evidence is not admissible evidence in a court trial.

On May 1, 2006, the Crown-in-Council, (Cabinet) on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the launch of a full public inquiry into the bombing, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice John Major, to find "answers to several key questions about the worst mass murder in Canadian history.  

The Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182  was to examine how Canadian law restricted funding terrorist groups, how well witness protection is provided in terrorist cases, if Canada needed to upgrade its aviation security, and if issues of co-operation between the RCMP, CSIS, and other law enforcement agencies had been resolved. It was to also provide a forum wherein families of the victims could testify on the impact of the bombing and would not repeat any criminal trials.

The inquiry's investigations were completed and released on June 17, 2010. The commission expressed the view in their dossier that "Talwinder Singh Parmar was the leader of the Babbar Khalsa, a pro-Khalistan organization at the heart of radical extremism, and it is now believed that he was the leader of the conspiracy to bomb Air India flights.  Commissioner Major concluded that a “cascading series of errors” by Crown ministries,—the RCMP, and CSIS allowed the terrorist attack to take place.

After the release of the findings, Stephen Harper announced in the media, on the 25th anniversary of the disaster that he would "acknowledge the catastrophic failures of intelligence, policing and air security that led to the bombing, and the prosecutorial lapses that followed."

In May 2007, Angus Reid Strategies released the results of public opinion poll. Thirty-four per cent of those asked felt both CSIS and airport security personnel deserved a great deal of the blame in addition to twenty-seven per cent who believed the RCMP were largely to blame. Eighteen per cent mentioned Transport Canada

It never fails. Those whom we rely on for our safety are often the ones who screw up.

It was General Galerius who said it best when he watched a soldier continuously missing the target he was aiming at.

“Allow me to offer my congratulations on the truly admirable skill you have shown in keeping clear of the mark. Not to have hit once in so many trials, argues the most splendid talents for missing.” 

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