"Betrayer" weeps at terror trial - Taipei Times
Sun, Nov 02, 2003 - Page 5 News List

"Betrayer" weeps at terror trial


The star government witness in the Air India terrorism trial told the judge on Friday that she still loves the man she is testifying against.

Prosecutors say the woman will provide key testimony linking Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri to bombings in 1985 that killed 331 people.

They told the court she will testify that she and Malik were in love, and that Malik confided his role in the bombings to her.

Two suitcase bombs that originated in this western Canadian city exploded on June 23, 1985.

The first bomb killed two baggage handlers at Japan's Narita airport, as the bags were transferred to Air India Flight 301. The second bomb blew up Air India Flight 182 as the jet approached the coast of Ireland. All 329 people aboard died.

Government prosecutors say the bombers wanted to avenge the Indian government's crackdown on extremist Sikhs and the Indian army attack in 1984 on the Sikh Golden Temple at Amritsar.

Malik, a wealthy Vancouver businessman, is accused of paying for and helping to organize the plane tickets used to plant the bombs.

Malik hired the woman to work from 1992 to 1997 at a Sikh school in the nearby suburban community of Surrey, the witness testified Friday.

A court order prohibits naming or otherwise identifying her. She has been under police protection since 1997.

But on Friday, after glancing at him and wiping her eyes as she took the stand, the woman said she still loves Malik and believes that by testifying she is betraying him.

She told the British Columbia Supreme Court that Malik hired her to manage an early childhood centre at the Khalsa School from 1992 to 1997. Malik was the president of the Satnam Education Society, which ran the school.

She said she quit a better-paying job to work at the school because the position let her "educate my community, the Sikh community, in the importance of early childhood learning."

The witness also told the court that Malik supported the family of a man already convicted in the case while he was in jail.

Malik paid the wife of Inderjit Singh Reyat at least 1,000 Canadian dollars (US$780) a month for his "services to Sikhism," and provided Reyat's wife and four children with an apartment at the religious school.

Reyat was originally charged along with Bagri and Malik, but he pleaded guilty last February to helping build the bomb on Air India Flight 182.

Reyat had already been convicted in 1991 for manslaughter in the Narita deaths.

Defense lawyers are expected to question the motives of the witness, who filed a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights commission against Malik, as well as separate wrongful dismissal cases after he fired her in 1997.

Earlier, the court heard that some officials at the school disapproved of the Western way the woman dressed. Employees at the school were required to adhere to religious dress codes.

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