Aug. 24, 2004. 06:20 PM
Judge lauds 'novel' evidence in Air India trial

BY HAYLEY MICK
CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER — The defence team for an accused Air India bomber received a judge's praise for their work in compiling new evidence for the case.

Ajaib Singh Bagri's lawyer, Michael Code, introduced the thick binder of documents with a flourish.

Justice Ian Josephson called the submissions "remarkable and novel."

"I am grateful," the B.C. Supreme Court judge said.

The documents included Canadian Security Intelligence Service surveillance reports of suspected bombing mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar in the months before two bombs killed 331 people on June 23, 1985.

Supporting RCMP documents were also included, because the surveillance reports had varying degrees of reliability, Code said.

There were also several taped long-distance phone calls between Parmar, who died in a shootout with Indian police several years ago, and various others, to add to those already submitted by the Crown.

Last week, Code suggested there was a rift between Bagri, a Kamloops, B.C., sawmill worker, and Parmar. He pointed to a lengthy April 1985 phone call between Parmar and a Kamloops Babbar Khalsa member in which they questioned Bagri's loyalty.

A Crown lawyer pointed out today that Parmar was later taped laughing about that conversation with another man allegedly involved in the plot.

The content of the wiretaps has not yet been accepted as evidence, just the fact that certain calls were made. CSIS wiretaps have never before been admissible in a criminal case.

Bagri and co-accused Ripudaman Singh Malik, a millionaire businessman from Vancouver, are charged with conspiracy and murder in two bombings that targeted Air India and killed 331.

The first blast killed two baggage handlers in a Tokyo airport. The second tore apart Air India Flight 182 on its way from Toronto to India, killing 329 people as they crossed the Atlantic.

According to the Crown, a group of Sikh separatists from British Columbia targeted India's national airline to avenge the army's raid on the Golden temple, Sikhism's holiest shrine.

Josephson is hearing the case without a jury.

Today, the defence also introduced a revised translation of two lengthy conversations that included Parmar.

A translator called as a witness for Bagri had testified Friday she took exception to parts of an RCMP translation of those calls.

But later that day she met with the RCMP translator and worked late into the night hammering out a third version, the court heard Tuesday.

They both agreed on 85 per cent of the revised text, said Code. But their differences weren't significant.

"They're minor shades of meaning," he said.

Code and the translator then reviewed those differences in detail for the court.

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