OTTAWA – Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only person ever to be convicted in the 1985 Air India bombings, was released from a Canadian prison Wednesday after serving two decades behind bars.
A spokesman for the Parole Board of Canada confirmed Reyat’s statutory release after serving two-thirds of a nine-year sentence for his involvement in one of the deadliest airline attacks in history.
Reyat, a Sikh immigrant to Canada, previously served more than 15 years in prison for making the bombs that were stuffed into two suitcases and planted on planes leaving Vancouver, British Columbia.
One bomb tore apart Air India Flight 182 as it neared the coast or Ireland, killing all 329 people aboard. The second exploded at Japan’s Narita airport, killing two baggage handlers as they transferred cargo.
The attack took place during an Indian crackdown on Sikhs fighting for an independent homeland, and those behind it were allegedly seeking revenge for the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by Indian troops.
Reyat has been ordered to live at a halfway house until August 2018, when his perjury sentence would normally expire, and abide by several conditions set by the parole board, including having no contact with victims’ families or alleged former co-conspirators, and no political activities.
He must also obtain counseling to address violent tendencies, a lack of empathy and “cognitive distortions” or what one official described as his exaggerated beliefs.
“If at any time, his parole officer feels there’s a risk to the community he can return Mr. Reyat to prison,” parole board spokesman Patrick Storey told AFP.
In 2010, Reyat was convicted of lying while testifying in the mass murder trial of alleged co-conspirators Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, who were later acquitted for lack of evidence.
He had avoided being tried alongside the pair by pleading guilty to a lesser manslaughter charge.
Prosecutors have said the verdict in the trial of Malik and Bagri would have been different if Reyat had told the truth on the stand when called to testify about the plot, while Judge Ian Josephson called him “an unmitigated liar.”
Reyat’s nine-year perjury sentence was the longest ever handed down by a Canadian court.