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Surjan Singh Gill, the mysterious Sikh suspected of being a CSIS mole in the Air-India conspiracy, was a polite, soft-spoken militant who considered the alleged mastermind of the deadly plot, Talwinder Singh Parmar, a close friend.

Self-appointed ambassador of an imaginary country called the Republic of Khalistan, Mr. Gill promoted Mr. Parmar in the mid-1980s as a dedicated leader in a campaign for an independent Sikh homeland.

On several occasions before 331 people were killed in bomb explosions on June 23, 1985, Canadian Security Intelligence Service agents saw Mr. Gill at Mr. Parmar's home and overheard their conversations.

But two days before the bombs were allegedly placed on aircraft at the Vancouver airport, Mr. Gill wrote a curious note to Mr. Parmar and his friends in a Sikh separatist group, newly released documents show.

"Dear Babba Khalsa Society, Dear Sirs," Mr. Gill wrote.

"Please be advised that, as of today's date, I hereby resign as officer director and member of your society. Yours truly, Surjan Singh Gill."

His formal resignation is at the crux of the mystery of his role in the Air-India conspiracy.

The court documents show that some police officers have said he was a CSIS mole instructed by his handlers to back out in order to ensure that Canada's spy agency was not implicated in the explosions that blew up an airliner off the Irish coast, killing 329 people, and killed two baggage handlers at an airport in Japan.

Other documents show the RCMP considered Mr. Gill a suspect within days of the explosions and kept close tabs on him for years.

Some police officers stated in documents that Mr. Gill was part of the group responsible for the bombings but got "cold feet" shortly before the disaster and pulled out.

In several news interviews since 1985, Mr. Gill has defended his friends but denied any knowledge of the plot to plant bombs on Air-India aircraft.

He has never been charged in the Air-India bombings, and, despite police interest in him, left Canada a few years ago to live in England. He was reported to have sold several properties before leaving to pay off debts totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr. Gill, 60, was born in Singapore and educated in India and England. In Vancouver, he was often seen in a black turban and full beard and wearing the ceremonial Sikh dagger called a kirpan when most Sikhs in Canada had abandoned their traditional dress.

Firmly committed to the cause of Sikh separatism, Mr. Gill opened an embassy in Vancouver for what he called a government in exile.

To advance the cause, he printed official blue Khalistani passports and colourful Khalistani currency. He published a 45-page pamphlet in 1982, called Case for Republic of Khalistan, in which he endorsed "symbolic" hijacking of Indian airlines and of violence.

"[Sikhs]may be required to sacrifice life, limb and property in their current struggle to gain their freedom," he wrote. "Nobody is going to offer them Khalistan on a silver platter."

CSIS had been aware of Mr. Gill and his activities from its surveillance of Mr. Parmar. It subsequently determined that Mr. Gill had driven Mr. Parmar to the Vancouver ferry dock in early June, when Mr. Parmar went to Vancouver Island, allegedly to test an explosive.

The spy agency formally began watching Mr. Gill on June 25, 1985, two days after the bombing, an RCMP report called Tip No. 39 stated.

The newly released documents show that prosecutor Robert Wright had endorsed a proposal to offer Mr. Gill immunity from prosecution in exchange for his co-operation.

It is unclear whether the offer was ever made or was accepted.

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