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September 30, 1999
Prosecutor Seeks Life Sentence For Gill's Killers
A P Kamath in Vancouver
Five men, including a teenager, who killed 65-year-old Nirmal Singh Gill in the parking lot of a gurdwara here last January should get a life sentences so they won't be eligible for parole for a long time, argued Crown prosecutor Ronald Caryer in the British Columbia Supreme Court this week. The sentencing is set for next month.
A stiff sentence could send a powerful warning to other racists who had crime on their minds, the prosecutor suggested.
Asserting that the five members of the skinhead group had repeatedly told their friends and acquaintances that they would kill the "Hindu" again, Caryer asked that for the first time in Canada the court should rule that the killing was a hate crime by members of a racist group.
If the five are not sentenced under the hate crime legislature, they could each receive 18 to 20 years in prison and be eligible for parole after six to eight years.
The Canadian Criminal Code was changed in 1996 to allow the courts to enhance a sentence if the offense was motivated by "bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, color, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability [or] sexual orientation."
Initially, Sikh fundamentalists were suspected in the murder since the gurdwara had witnessed many clashes between the moderates and fundamentalists. But anonymous phone calls to the police and other clues led to the arrest and prosecution of the five skinheads.
Caryer also said the skinheads were planning to blow up a gurdwara if they were arrested.
Intercepted conversations and accounts by undercover agents show that Robert Kluch, one of the murderers, talked with others of going to a gurdwara in Surrey to "do in everyone that was there" if they got wind that the police might arrest them.
The five are "exceptionally dangerous, violent and callous individuals whose conduct must not only be soundly denounced but whose behavior must be closely scrutinized for the remainder of their lives," Caryer said.
Gill was killed in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh temple in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey. He was apparently chosen at random because it was easy to attack him since he came to the temple very early in the morning.
The five men had come from a skinhead party and were dressed in skinhead fashion -- shaved heads, bomber jackets, red suspenders and army pants and boots.
Many of the skinheads' friends knew they were involved in Gill's death, the prosecutor said. "The conspiracy of silence that resulted, and the tacit approval of their actions" should be considered when examining the issue of deterrence, he said.
"It is important for this court to say to people of like attitude as the accused that, as a society, we [will] not tolerate, but will severely punish those people who, in acting upon their own intolerance, hurt innocent citizens of this country," Caryer said.
Nathan LeBlanc, Radoslaw Synderek, Daniel Miloszewski and Lee Nikkel are the other four found guilty in the murder. After the arrests, the police found a bag with a sawed-off shotgun, ammunition and personal items at his home. LeBlanc advocated terrorist acts and took steps to prepare for acting on a plan, Caryer said in court.
Over the next week, Caryer announced he will play recordings of conversations in which the killers talk openly and repeatedly about their racist views and their actions at the time of the killing.
"When the Hindu [Gill] was struggling with [Nikkel] and he was making lots of noise, like 'Don't hurt me, don't hurt me,' then I -- we all jumped in to shut him up," Miloszewski says in one recording, made in April 1998.
Miloszewski and five friends considered themselves skinheads and espoused a philosophy of intolerance, Caryer said.
Nikkel was recorded telling his sister-in-law two months after Gill was killed that "a Paki standing there and I'll think, you know, ahead, oh you know, I hate this guy. Honestly I'll say I, I hate this guy because he's here and he's doing what he's doing. I hate him." The remark took place in a conversation with his sister-in-law in March 1998.
Nikkel was to be recruited into the skinhead group on that night, Caryer said, adding that he left the party looking for a person of a different racial, ethnic, religious or national origin to beat so that he could be successfully recruited.
He repeatedly kicked Gill in the head so that he could boast to his friends that he had indeed killed a man and that the killing proved that he was a good skinhead, Caryer said.
The five men deserved the maximum sentence since they have displayed no remorse or shown the slightest degree of empathy toward the victim, his family or his community, Caryer said.
"To the contrary, to a man, these accused have shown pride in their killing of Mr Gill, have boasted of killing Mr Gill, have involved themselves in subsequent violent, aggressive activity and indicated that they would be prepared to kill again," he said.
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