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Air India bomb maker seeks to appeal perjury conviction

Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only man ever convicted in the Air India bombings of 1985, waits outside B.C. Supreme Court during a fire drill which forced everyone in the building outside prior to the start of the second day of his perjury trial in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday September 10, 2010.

DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Inderjit Singh Reyat is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a perjury conviction for his testimony at the Air India bombing trial, further prolonging a saga that began with the deaths of 329 people in the skies over the Atlantic Ocean nearly three decades ago.

Mr. Reyat, who himself pleaded guilty to manslaughter for his role in the bombing, was convicted of perjury in September 2010 and later sentenced to nine years in prison — believed to be the longest perjury sentence in Canadian history.

He was accused of lying 19 times during the 2003 trial of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, who were acquitted of mass murder and conspiracy in the bombing of Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985. The bombing killed 329 people, mostly Canadian citizens, while another explosion at an airport in Tokyo killed two baggage handlers.

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Mr. Reyat fought his perjury conviction at the B.C. Court of Appeal, but that case was rejected this past July. Mr. Reyat is now asking the country's highest court to hear the case.

A notice of application, filed on Sept. 27, repeats Mr. Reyat's argument that the judge made a mistake in his instructions to the jury.

Mr. Reyat's lawyer has argued the judge was wrong to tell the members of the jury they didn't have to agree on which specific lie Mr. Reyat told, as long as they each agreed that he lied during the trial.

"The necessary elements or ingredients for the offence of perjury are entirely consistent among the 19 particulars to the indictment, and there was evidence on which the jury could have found each to have been proven," the court said in its decision, dated July 19.

It's not clear when the Supreme Court of Canada will decide whether it will hear the case, or if it does, when the case might proceed.

Neither Mr. Reyat's lawyer nor the B.C. prosecutor in the case could be reached for comment.

Mr. Reyat was a Crown witness at Mr. Malik's and Mr. Bagri's trial, when he insisted he knew nothing about the alleged conspiracy. The judge in that case later described Mr. Reyat as an "unmitigated liar."

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The testimony was part of a deal that saw Mr. Reyat plead guilty to manslaughter in the bombing of the plane and receive a controversial five-year sentence. He also served an earlier 10-year sentence for manslaughter for the deaths of two airport baggage handlers in Tokyo.

It's believed a suitcase bomb was loaded onto a plane at Vancouver International Airport, then transferred to the Air India flight, which touched down in Montreal before continuing on towards London. The bomb exploded off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 passengers and crew.

An hour later, a bomb destined from another Air India plane exploded in Tokyo.

The Crown's theory was that British Columbia-based Sikhs hatched the plot to take revenge against government-owned Air India after the Indian army stormed the Golden Temple — Sikhism's holiest shrine — in June 1984 to oust Sikh separatists.

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