After a two-year trial, a Canadian judge on Wednesday acquitted two Indian-born Sikhs of murder and other charges in the deaths of 329 people killed in the bombing of an Air India [ Images ] plane..
On June 23,1985, Air India Flight 182 from Montreal to London [ Images ] exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off
the coast of Ireland.
All 329 people on board, mostly Canadians, were killed.
The British Columbia Supreme Court cleared Ripudaman Singh Malik, 57, and Ajaib Singh Bagri, 55, of all eight charges against them.
Reading out the verdict, Justice Ian Josephson said the prosecution's witnesses in the case were not credible.
Josephson's verdict brought to close one of the most exhaustive and expensive trials in Canadian history.
Some evidence was lost or destroyed and two potential witnesses were murdered.
Over 100 witnesses have been examined since the trial began in April 2003.
Reading his berdict on Malik, Josephson said, "The Crown has not proven its case against him beyond a reasonable doubt."
As he delivered his judgement against Bagri, Josephson said, "The evidence has fallen remarkably short I find the Crown has not proved his guilt beyond reasonable doubt."
Malik and Bagri were jointly charged under the Criminal Code of Canada [ Images ] with the following:
- Conspiracy to commit murder
- First degree murder of the passengers and crew of Air India flight 182
- Attempted murder of the passengers and crew of Air India flight 301
- First degree murder in relation to the explosion at the Narita airport
- Conspiring to cause bombs to be placed on board various aircraft
- Three counts of causing a bomb to be placed on an aircraft.
Spectators in the courtroom, including dozens of victims' relatives, gasped when the verdicts were read. Some started wailing.
Malik and Bagri were immediately removed from the courtroom.
With the exception of several confessions testified to by star witnesses, much of the case against the two men was circumstantial.
The star witness against Bagri, a former member of a New York Sikh militant group who was paid $382,000 for his testimony, said Bagri confessed to him at a New Jersey gas station.
Taking the witness stand on March 21, 2004, the man testified Bagri said "we did this" as they discussed the bombing.
Similarly, a woman who said she and Malik were in love testified the millionaire businessman confessed to her several times.
"We had Air India crash," she said Malik told her. "Nobody, I mean nobody, can do anything."
Both of the witnesses identities have been protected by the court.
Malik is a high-profile Vancouver millionaire and Bagri is a sawmill worker from Kamloops, British Columbia.
The bombings were the deadliest terrorist strike before the Sept 11 attacks and were Canada's worst case of mass murder.