By Salim Jiwa
VANCOUVER – Seeking more evidence to bolster their case, government lawyers prosecuting two suspects in the terrorist bombing of Air India flight 182 could be using a tough new law enacted by Ottawa in the wake of the 9/11 disaster in the U.S.
In fact, information received by this writer suggests the first hearing under amendments to the criminal code introduced under Bill C-36 that allows authorities to compel a person with knowledge about an ongoing terrorism investigation to appear at a secret hearing in front of a judge may have already occurred.
Under the amendment designed to aid police and crown in a terrorism investigation, a person subpoenaed with the approval of the attorney-general must appear before a judge and detail their knowledge about an act of terrorism or a person sought in connection with a terrorism investigation.
Bill C-36 evoked controversy when it was introduced in parliament shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. launched by the Osama bin Laden organization known as Al Qaeda. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations were severely critical of the law which provides for secret hearings and allows police to detain terrorism suspects for longer than the normal detention provisions on other criminal code offenses.
It is believed crown counsel involved in the prosecution of Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik, both charged with multiple counts in the downing of the aircraft, subpoenaed the wife of a convicted terrorist to appear before a judge to detail her knowledge about a man long sought by RCMP in connection with a bush-bomb experiment performed by two men 19 days before the flight was blown up with a time-bomb.
Under the criminal code amendment, the person called before a judge can be represented by counsel and is protected from the normal rules of self-incrimination. Information gleaned at such hearing cannot be used to prosecute the person giving the information to the judge. However, the information can be used in the prosecution of terrorism cases against others.
It is possible the government could call several other people believed to have knowledge about the Air India bombing case to appear before a judge and disclose their knowledge.
Crown Counsel spokesman Geoff Gaul will not say whether such hearings have taken place or are contemplated under the so-called anti-terrorism law passed in December 2001. He said any such discussion would take place in court.
He added, however, that the government would use “all available legal tools” and “leave no stone unturned” in an effort to execute a successful prosecution of the Air India case.
329 people perished when Air India Flight 182 exploded at an altitude of 31,000 feet on June 23, 1985.
Written by Salim Jiwa
Author of “The Death of Air India Flight 182”
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