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Acquitted man suing justice officials over Air India trial

Ajaib Singh Bagri leaves B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, B.C. with his daughter after he was found not guilty in the bombing of an Air India flight 182 in 1985, Wednesday, March 16, 2005.

Richard Lam/The Canadian Press/Richard Lam/The Canadian Press

One of the two men acquitted in the 1985 Air India bombings is suing federal and provincial justice officials for damages and legal costs, saying his Charter rights were violated by the failed prosecution.

Ajaib Singh Bagri filed a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday over his arrest and trial for murder in the deaths of 329 people killed in the June 23, 1985, bombing of Flight 182 and another explosion the same day killed two baggage handlers at Tokyo's airport.

"During the plaintiff's trial, the plaintiff spent his own funds and borrowed funds to defend himself prior to the Attorney-General of British Columbia funding his defence," says the claim, filed in Kamloops, B.C., where Mr. Bagri lives.

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The lawsuit claims Mr. Bagri's Charter rights were violated because the Canadian Security Intelligence Service destroyed recordings of intercepted conversations and a witness interview.

It points out that in 1985, CSIS was intercepting the private communications of Talwinder Singh Parmar, but those intercepts were later destroyed by CSIS and no copies were kept. Mr. Parmar, considered the mastermind of the plot, was killed in a shootout with Indian police in Punjab in 1992.

"The destruction of the Parmar intercepts was unacceptable negligence on the part of CSIS and the government of Canada," the claim contends.

In 1987, it says, the agency interviewed a witness but notes and audiotapes of that interview were also destroyed and no copies were kept. This, too, was "unacceptable negligence."

The provincial attorney-general knew that these materials had been destroyed prior to commencing with their prosecution, says the claim, but proceeded.

"The Attorney-General of British Columbia was negligent in commencing a prosecution against the plaintiff knowing that his Section 7 [Charter] rights had been violated over a decade before the Air India prosecution was commenced," the claim says.

It says the federal Public Safety minister was also negligent in allowing the destruction of the materials.

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The province, the B.C. attorney-general, the federal government and the Public Safety Ministry, which is responsible for CSIS and the RCMP, are all named as defendants.

The attorney-general's office and the Public Safety Ministry declined comment on the lawsuit. No one from the RCMP was immediately available and Mr. Bagri did not return a call seeking comment.

Mr. Bagri, a Kamloops, B.C., mill worker, and Vancouver businessman Ripudaman Singh Malik were arrested and charged in 2000 and acquitted in 2005.

Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only man ever convicted in the Air India bombings, was found guilty of perjury for his testimony at the Air India trial and handed a nine-year sentence earlier this year. He is appealing that sentence.

Mr. Reyat pled guilty in February, 2003, to supplying bomb parts housed in a suitcase that exploded aboard Air India Flight 182, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland.

He received a controversial five-year sentence in exchange for his testimony at Mr. Bagri's and Mr. Malik's trial, after already serving a decade behind bars for the explosion at Tokyo's Narita Airport.

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An exhaustive public inquiry into the Air India tragedy catalogued a litany of federal failures before and after the 1985 disaster, including a turf war between the RCMP and CSIS that led to the destruction of the materials.

Authorities believe the bombings were the work of Sikh extremists who targeted the government-owned airline in their fight for an independent homeland.

The RCMP says their investigation continues.

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