The only person convicted in connection with the bombing of Air India Flight 182 has lost an appeal in B.C.’s highest court and will serve the longest perjury sentence in Canadian history.
Inderjit Singh Reyat, the bomb maker who was convicted of manslaughter for his role in the 1985 attack that killed 329 people, was also later convicted of perjury for his testimony at the trial of two other men, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri.
Mr. Reyat was sentenced to nine years on the perjury count – a sentence his lawyer argued was unfit.
But the B.C. Court of Appeal, in a ruling delivered Thursday, dismissed Mr. Reyat’s challenge and said the gravity of the trial at which he perjured himself was “without comparison.”
“Mr. Reyat’s false testimony, by which he hid the extent of his knowledge of the conspiracy alleged in the Malik/Bagri trial concerning this most serious mass murder, is a stain on the Canadian trial process, leaving the record in that singular case incomplete. No case before has considered false professions of lost memory in circumstances of such scale,” Justice Mary Saunders wrote.
Ian Donaldson, Mr. Reyat’s lawyer, declined comment outside court.
Len Doust, lawyer for the Crown, declined comment when reached by telephone.
The appeal court heard arguments in the case in November.
Mr. Donaldson’s primary argument was that Mr. Reyat’s sentence was simply too long. He told the court the trial judge overemphasized denunciation and undervalued the principle of rehabilitation. He said the judge also failed to give sufficient weight to the time Mr. Reyat had already spent behind bars and his expression of remorse.
Justice Saunders said the trial judge properly weighed the mitigating factors and did not err in finding that denunciation should be the governing factor. She added that there appeared to be “little expression of remorse” from Mr. Reyat.
“Perjury is always a serious offence, and even in cases lacking the massive wrong at the heart of the trial at which this perjured evidence was given, courts have imposed sentences of significant incarceration,” she wrote.
She added: “I see no error in the judge’s placement of this offence on the spectrum of perjury cases. Although Mr. Reyat is critical of the judge for observing that it was impossible to say what difference the evidence would have made had it been tendered … I do not consider the judge erred as submitted.”
Mr. Reyat was an electrician in the Vancouver Island city of Duncan at the time of the attack. His first bomb went off at a Japanese airport and killed two baggage handlers. Mr. Reyat was convicted of manslaughter in connection with their deaths in 1991.
The second bomb, on board Flight 182, went off about one hour after the blast in Japan. Mr. Reyat pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the deaths of those on board in 2003.
Mr. Reyat, in his testimony at the trial of Mr. Malik and Mr. Bagri, repeatedly said he could not recall events and said he knew nothing of an alleged conspiracy. The judge in the case described Mr. Reyat as an “unmitigated liar.” Mr. Malik and Mr. Bagri were acquitted.
Mr. Reyat was accused of lying 19 times during the trial. He failed in an attempt last year to appeal the perjury conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada.