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November 17, 1999
Would-be 'God' Sentenced For Murder
A P Kamath
"Kill one (Sikh) and you're a murderer. Kill many and you're a conqueror. Kill them all and you're a god," boasted Daniel Miloszewski in a secretly-recorded conversation with an undercover police officer near Vancouver after participating in the murder of an elderly Sikh. He also suggested he was ready to kill again -- and joined some of his friends in declaring that if he was arrested, his friends would blow up the biggest gurdwara in British Columbia.
On Tuesday, Miloszewski heard a tough-talking judge tell him and his accomplices that racism has no place in a multi-ethnic Canada.
Asserting that he was sending a "loud, clear" message that Canada would not tolerate racism, a judge in Surrey jailed five young men -- members of a neo-Nazi group -- for between 12 and 15 years for killing the caretaker of a gurdwara.
This is the first major trial of its kind in British Columbia in which the five, who admitted beating Nirmal Singh Gill to death outside the Guru Nanak gurdwara in January last year, were sentenced under the hate crime law.
Judge William Stewart rejected the defense plea for lenient sentencing at least for two men who regretted the violent act and were now wedded to a non-violent path. But the judge did not accept the prosecution's request to sentence the men to a life in prison either.
"Nirmal Singh Gill is dead simply because he was Indo-Canadian," said Judge Stewart, dismissing the men's claim that the attack was not racially motivated.
"He was attacked because he was different from the accused. It is that simple."
While a large number of Sikhs who had attended the trial had hoped for a life sentence for at least three of the defendants, they said they felt relieved that the trial was over and some justice had been done.
"We were expecting life in prison, but they didn't get it," Balwant Singh Gill, president of the Guru Nanak gurdwara, said. Still, he said, he was satisfied.
"It's enough," he said, adding that he hoped that a message has been sent to the white supremacist groups that racism had no place in Canada.
"Justice has been done," said Tej Singh Phagura, who knew the murdered priest. "Nobody can return Nirmal Singh Gill but for our community, this racism had a very bad effect on us."
Gill who came to Canada in 1989 seeking political refuge was beaten to death while preparing the gurdwara for early morning service. Earlier, he had discovered the men vandalizing cars.
Initially, die-hard Sikhs were suspected in the murder because several gurdwaras had seen violent fights between moderates and their religious foes.
But investigators got tips that the 65-year-old man was killed by men who were either in their late teens or early twenties. Later the men confessed to the murder but at least two of them tried to assert through their lawyers that the crime was not racially motivated.
The judge made it clear that he was convinced Nathan LeBlanc, Radoslaw Synderek, Robert Kluch, Daniel Miloszewski and Lee Nikkel were neo-Nazi skinheads and white supremacists at the time of the murder.
They are "social misfits" who dreamt of creating a whites-only world, "where these small-minded simple men would be in charge," he announced.
British Columbia has nearly 150,000 Sikhs, about 70 per cent of them live in and around Vancouver. The trial was held in a high-security court in Surrey, which has about 42,000 Indo-Canadians (mostly Sikh) among its 300,000 population.
He sentenced Nikkel, 18, and Kluch, 26, to 15 years in addition to the 18 months they have been in custody since their arrest.
Synderek, 24, Miloszewski, 22, and LeBlanc, 27, were sentenced to 12 years.
The five are eligible for parole after serving one-third of their sentences.
The police, who seized racist CDs and Nazi and Aryan Nations paraphernalia from among their possessions, say the men belonged to the White Power racist group.
Prosecutors had presented a case in which police used an elaborate undercover operation to collect evidence, with members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police posing as members of a motorcycle gang willing to help the skinheads fund a whites-only race war.
Some of the men recounted how Gill's kada was ripped from his wrist as he lay dying.
After his arrest, LeBlanc wrote to a Texas white supremacist facing the death penalty for dragging an African American man to death behind a pickup truck.
"You should have been given a medal," LeBlanc said in the letter.
The judge called LeBlanc an "unrepentant racist," adding his comments were "an affront to all citizens".
Judge Stewart rejected the defense contention that the men didn't know Gill was Indo-Canadian. Citing the prosecution's case, he said they took pride in the "cowardly" attack.
They were "moronic braggarts" he said.
He said the sentence took into account the young age of the accused, their guilty pleas and the regret expressed by Synderek and Miloszewski. But he could not give them harsher sentencess than that is generally meted out for hate crimes.
"No one, even the most repugnant criminals, must be singled out for special treatment," he noted.
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