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Not guilty.
March 16, 2005 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Not guilty. It's been nearly 20 years since Air India Flight 182 crashed into the ocean off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 people aboard, after a bomb went off in the luggage compartment. Today, the two main suspects in the case were acquitted. Families of the victims are upset, disgusted. Of the 329 victims, 82 of them were under the age of 12. Let's take a moment to remember them; victims of one of the worst terrorist acts prior to September 11th, 2001.
posted by juliebug (53 comments total)

 
Thanks for this post. It would have been nice with some broader links, but regardless, it was something I had forgotten about.

I have a question, and I really don't mean it to be snarky. Why does it matter that so many of the dead were children? I understand that dead children upset people, but why do they upset people more than dead adults? It's one thing to me when the children are killed by the people who are responsible for caring for them in some way, I find that to be very upsetting, but even when that is not the case dead children seem to upset people much more than dead adults. I want to stress again that this is an honest and sincere question.
posted by OmieWise at 5:17 PM on March 16, 2005


Omie,
Not to be snarky either, but a genuine curiousity...
Do you happen to have children?
posted by numlok at 5:21 PM on March 16, 2005


Why would the families be "disgusted"? What makes them so sure that these two actually did it?
posted by borkingchikapa at 5:23 PM on March 16, 2005


Not guilty, hey...maybe they didn't do it?

Just sayin'.
posted by Jimbob at 5:23 PM on March 16, 2005


This is horrible. There was a palpable sense of betrayal and disbelief after the verdicts were announced.

I don't know what else can be done. It's clear that CSIS and the RCMP made critical mistakes early in the investigation, but would a public inquiry produce any clearer understanding after all this time? The crown attorneys had a weak case hinging on the credibility of witnesses who were inconsistent in their testimony. I think they did their best with what they had.

I can't imagine how the families must feel now knowing that the two main suspects are free now -- free, for instance, to leave the country. How could a conspiracy that resulted in the murders of 331 people (counting the two baggage handlers at Norita airport in Japan) after twenty years of investigation not result in conviction?
posted by 327.ca at 5:24 PM on March 16, 2005


Yeah, thanks for reminding me, juliebug.

Omie, I've tackled that question myself before - I think that the idea is that while adults may have made choices that resulted in their death, even innocent ones like getting on that plane, the children are completely without blame. Not to say I blame the adults in any way, but a child dying is kind of more loss of life if you imagine they had a whole life ahead of them. Just kinda my opinion on it.
I see a lot of dead kids in reports of bombings and stuff, and I've stopped responding to it the way I used to. Every death is a tragedy but there are so many goddamn tragedies every goddamn second. To address one is to ignore others - and to say I could encompass all of them is hubristic. Besides that, using these poor kids as a way to further a point, whatever point that is, is always wrong IMHO. If you're relying on the gut reaction of seeing a dead child to prove your point, you need to reevaluate.

That is not, of course, the case with this post - thanks for the reminder and may their souls and the souls of their families be at peace.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:25 PM on March 16, 2005


Also - I hate to double post and I'm totally ignorant on this matter, but is it a possibility that these two were actually innocent of this crime? I don't know anything about the case so if someone could enlighten me that'd be great.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:27 PM on March 16, 2005


> I really don't mean it to be snarky. Why does it matter that so many of the
> dead were children?

We are higher primates, Omie. K strategists. Caring most particularly about children is hard-wired in. Credit goes to X millions of years of natural selection.
posted by jfuller at 5:30 PM on March 16, 2005


but is it a possibility that these two were actually innocent of this crime?

Exactly. I'm totally ignorant about this matter too. But one would think that if, as 327 says, 20 years of investigation fails to convict them, maybe they spent 20 years chasing the wrong people. Wouldn't be the first time, would it? It's amazing how people's desire for "closure" makes them lose faith in the justice system the minute things don't do their way.

If a "not guilty" verdict is returned...start investigating other leads. Don't get "disgusted".
posted by Jimbob at 5:31 PM on March 16, 2005


jfuller - Strictly speaking I think that we would only care about children more if we were not still reproducing - that is, if we had to choose between a fertile mate and an offspring, we would choose the mate because there is a greater possibility for passing on genes there (i.e. two children in future as opposed to one now).
THOUGH certainly it might have something to do with it :)

on preview - Jimbob, I can't blame them for being disgusted, though - they have every right to think that justice has gotten away from them if they have been following the case and have decided the evidence was enough and these guys just got out on an OJ.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:33 PM on March 16, 2005


I'm totally ignorant on this matter, but is it a possibility that these two were actually innocent of this crime? I don't know anything about the case so if someone could enlighten me that'd be great.

Yes, I think that's what the verdict is saying -- that there is a possibility that they're innocent, that the charges were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

But there is a huge public perception of guilt and a largely justified cynicism with the way the investigation was bungled by CSIS and the RCMP.

But one would think that if, as 327 says, 20 years of investigation fails to convict them, maybe they spent 20 years chasing the wrong people.

Either that or (more likely, given what we know about the mistakes that were committed) that 20-year investigation was not competently conducted.

I don't think you can appreciate the exhaustion felt by everyone associated with the case. This was by far the largest criminal proceeding in Canadian history.
posted by 327.ca at 5:37 PM on March 16, 2005


I don't believe I heard about this crash. Or if I did, I just lumped it in with all the other terrorist incidents. Oh well...
posted by mischief at 5:40 PM on March 16, 2005


Thanks for the responses to my question. I don't have children myself, but the response I'm talking about seems to be a general trope, not one confined to people who have offspring.

jfuller-thanks for the link. I'd never heard of r and K strategists before.
posted by OmieWise at 5:51 PM on March 16, 2005


This case has been characterized not by actual doubts of guilt, but by many failures of the Canadian government to investigate properly. For example, the prosecution's best evidence, a tape of wire-tapped conversations, was accidentally and entirely erased.

It's not a question of the defendants having great lawyers; the Canadian government failed. This investigation and trial took so long because it was one gigantic mess. The not-guilty verdict is just underlining the train wreck it always was. I'll be joining the families in demanding a judicial inquiry.
posted by mek at 6:26 PM on March 16, 2005


I can never make up my mind on which is worse: parents dying in something like this and leaving infants or young children behind, or the entire family dying in something like this together.

Mostly I can't make up my mind because I try to spend as little time thinking such things as possible, but once in a while it comes up. Like in this thread.
posted by davejay at 6:54 PM on March 16, 2005


For example, the prosecution's best evidence, a tape of wire-tapped conversations, was accidentally and entirely erased.

Holy fucking shit.



I can never make up my mind on which is worse: parents dying in something like this and leaving infants or young children behind, or the entire family dying in something like this together.

What the fuck?! How can you possible be serious? Are you suggesting that you might consider the possibly that orphans are better off dead? Let me make up your mind for you: the scenario in which the children do not die is better. Especially for the children, who come out of it not dead.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:09 PM on March 16, 2005


Disgusting how the RCMP and CSIS bungled up one thing after another. They are, in my opinion, clearly guilty -- but the judge is not to blame -- he was simply not given enough evidence to work on. All that was left after the botched surveillance, the missing witnesses etc. were hearsays.
posted by ori at 7:11 PM on March 16, 2005


To put this in perspective...

In 1985, 331 people were killed in the Air India disaster.
In 1985, Canada's population was about 30 million people.

In 2001, 2985 people were killed in the WTC attacks.
In 2001, the US population was just under 300 million people.

Relative to our total population, this event claimed more lives than 911. It happened twenty years ago! And when Canadians read things like "I don't believe I heard about this crash. Or if I did, I just lumped it in with all the other terrorist incidents. Oh well...", we have to wonder what planet you live on.
posted by 327.ca at 7:28 PM on March 16, 2005


OmieWise - One reason people make a big deal out of the great number of children is that someone (or some people) out there elected to construct a bomb and place it aboard an airplane. There's been some question as to the timing of the bomb (was it supposed to go off while no one was aboard?) and such, but either way, 329 people were murdered, and 82 of those people were just kids, who couldn't possibly have done anything to warrant such a death.

For me, personally, it means a lot because I knew three of the victims. A 7 year old girl was in my class at school. Her four year old brother and my younger brother played together regularly. Their mother and my mother were friends. And then, one day, shortly after school let out for the summer, we got a phone call telling us that the three of them had been on Air India, and that there were no survivors.

borkingchikapa - I used "disgusted" because I heard Susheel Gupta (who was 12 when his mother died on Air India) use the word shortly after the verdicts were handed down. Frankly, after nearly 20 years of bungling evidence and dropping the ball and just all-out stupidities occurring, I have to say that "disgusted" pretty much sums up how I feel, too. 327.ca explained above that there's a public perception of guilt, and that, had it not been for the many problems with evidence and witnesses, this day might have come sooner, and with a different verdict.
posted by juliebug at 7:30 PM on March 16, 2005


Jimbob, if you're "totally ignorant" on the matter, maybe you should, I don't know, keep your mouth shut until you have a clue?

The two suspects were strongly guilt-indicated, but the RCMP and CSIS fucked the whole thing up. There's an unmistakeable belief amongst those who have been following the case that there was indeed guilt here. As with ori, I don't blame the judge, even if I was totally disappointed and cried when the verdict was announced (after obsessively refreshing the cbc page over and over). I certainly don't want to see any innocent people go to jail, but I sincerely believe, and feel I am well informed upon, the fact that there was quite a lot of guilt in these two individuals.

I'll shut up now because I've been talking about it elsewhere and need to let it rest.
posted by livii at 7:31 PM on March 16, 2005


I rather think the "think of the children" meme is very new. Remember, not so long ago, in the U.S., kids worked all day at very dangerous jobs and nobody batted an eyelash when they died.

Also, I recall reading that when the US was being settled, parents didn't name their kids until they reached a certain age because it was accepted that the child might not live. I'm sure, now, someone out there is naming their unfertilized egg or sperm.
posted by Jim Jones at 7:32 PM on March 16, 2005


Oh, and in case in wasn't clear above, "not guilty" does not mean that the two were completely innocent, or that these were the wrong guys. There was insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; this doesn't mean there was none, or that there wasn't lots of it and were it not for the erasing of tapes, the passage of time, etc. that they wouldn't have been found guilty. Basic stuff, here.
posted by livii at 7:36 PM on March 16, 2005


one of the worst terrorist acts prior to September 11th, 2001.

Wait a minute ... are you saying there were terrorist incidents prior to 9/11?
posted by sour cream at 7:46 PM on March 16, 2005


I was watching Newsworld this morning when the verdict came down... there were a lot of angry people.

This thing has been a total failure. The trial alone, not including the investigation, cost $100 million -- they had to build a special court house for it (didn't they also do this for the biker trials in... Manitoba?) Add to that $30 million for the investigation whose legacy will be an erased tape.
posted by maledictory at 7:52 PM on March 16, 2005


"we have to wonder what planet you live on."

Let's see, what was I doing in June 1985? I do believe I was learning how to program in assembly and going through my cross-dressing phase. Nope, keeping up with news was nowhere on my priorities list. Come to think of it, I don't think I have yet seen video of the Challenger exploding.
posted by mischief at 8:44 PM on March 16, 2005


I think 327.ca was protesting the "oh well..." part of your reply, mischief, where you made it seem as if there was no point in even trying to find out about the issue now, or any point in hearing about the case at all. I didn't mind personally that you hadn't heard about it at the time, but if 327.ca hadn't said anything about the other part, I was going to. Maybe you didn't mean it that way, but your post came off incredibly badly.
posted by livii at 8:59 PM on March 16, 2005


I lived in Vancouver my whole life until this year, and I have a fairly clear understanding of the issues surrounding this case. Firstly, the investigation was generally incompetent. The RCMP and CSIS take a large share of the responsiblity for this verdict.

Secondly, these people, in the highly unlikely case that they are not responsible for these acts, the militant Sikhs among whom they are leaders are nothing less than a terrorist organisation at least as vicious and cruel as any islamicist terror group. A group of militant Sikhs once tried to murder the Indian minister responsible for Punjab, a Sikh himself, on Vancouver Island. The former premier of BC and current federal Health Minisher, Ujjal Dosanjh, was once beaten half to death by militant Sikh youths. Why? Because he dared belong to a moderate Sikh temple which allowed tables and chairs in its eatery.

Religious extremisn has many faces. Many of you are probably not familiar with this one, but it is as ugly as any.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:16 PM on March 16, 2005


Gah, that came out very awkward and unreadable. So sorry.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:18 PM on March 16, 2005


Jim Jones,
What you are talking about is different. Back then, there was a higher generally accepted danger level, simply because life was more dangerous. Especially in areas like the frontier. However, disasters and attrocities and such are different, in that they are events that greatly exceed the danger you normally expect in life. Remember the idea of "women and children first", that those who could not protect themselves should be helped before those who could? A tragedy that involved children has always bothered people more, because as jfuller pointed out it's been hardwired into us to do so.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:14 PM on March 16, 2005


What expletive deleted said.

Also, a prominent witness for the prosecution in this case was assassinated before he could testify. And the accused had the benefit of an outstanding (and very costly) legal team, allegedly paid for by same Sikh extremist elements that planned the original attack.

The bungling of this case by the RCMP and CSIS is inexcusable, but the joyful reaction to the verdict by the militant Sikh community in Vancouver is disturbing.

I don't think we have seen the end of this yet.
posted by Deepspace at 11:20 PM on March 16, 2005


I think those guys don't have long to live since they're no longer under the court's protection. Half the country wants them dead? I fully expect a dagger in the night, or maybe some white powder...
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:46 PM on March 16, 2005


Half the country wants them dead? I fully expect a dagger in the night, or maybe some white powder..

Bush and Cheney are still chugging along, so wishes like these don't generally come true.

I don't think we have seen the end of this yet.

Definitely not. An appeal will almost certainly proceed, though it has little chance, just as it's becoming increasingly apparent the prosecution itself stood little chance. At the very least, this will stop people from blaming the judge, which is shamefully misdirected anger. A judicial inquiry is equally likely; if anything deserves one, this does.
posted by mek at 3:00 AM on March 17, 2005


...one of the worst terrorist acts prior to September 11th, 2001.

The genocide of North American Indians doesn't rank in the "Worst Terrorist Acts" hit parade? Then I'm guessing Hiroshima and Nagasaki are definitely out of the question. (To these events benefits though, they both did include some 10's of thousands of children...)
posted by fairmettle at 3:04 AM on March 17, 2005


livlii
If the courts declared them innocent, how can you still declare them guilty? Isn't that precisely why we have a judicial system?

deepspace
The people who celebrated were regular people, not ones belonging to any militant organization. They were celebrating because they believed that these people were being falsely accused.

I truly sympathize with those who lost friends and relatives in this terrorist act, but as a general principal, once the judicial system has declared someone not guilty, you cannot go around declaring their guilt.

Here is some background on the issue from the BBC website.
posted by lowgfr at 4:18 AM on March 17, 2005


not guilty /= innocent. A court of law finding someone guilty is generally hoped to correlate with actual guilt, but this is not always the case. Obviously - that's why we have appeals. Time for a few lessons in logic.

I can believe X is guilty, simulatenously believe a judge found X not guilty, and ALSO believe that the judge made the correct decision in finding X not guilty. There is nothing wrong with this. A judge must reach the belief "X is guilty" via a very specific route outlined by the legal system, and also has a much more strenuous test for this belief, and rightly so. I have my own requirement for my belief, which can be different and still valid. I may have some special knowledge the judge does not, or simply believe "it's more likely than not X is guilty." I can believe X is guilty, without being beyond a reasonable doubt that X is guilty, while a judge cannot.

Thus we reach our current predicament. It's very likely the individuals on trial had something to do with Air India. They're associated with the undeniable mastermind of the scheme, who died in a police shootout. Regardless, the guilt of these two was not properly demonstrated in that courtroom, and the judge could not find them guilty, even if he himself believed them to be. Evidence was erased, witnesses were assassinated... these things happen. These things themselves can be considered even further evidence of guilt for the layman, but again, judges obey different rules.

There has to be cases where it's correct to call a person guilty even after a court has found them not guilty. To say otherwise is to say a guilty man has never gone free. And before you get semantic with me, yes, if you claim "guilty" means "found guilty by a court of law", perhaps you're right. But then the word means nothing, really.

fairmettle: Terrorism is when the Darkies kill Whitey. We don't care when it works in reverse, cause it's not us that suffers. If the dominant culture doesn't care, then there's no "terror," at least not any publicly acknowledged. Otherwise the "war" in Iraq would be a terrorist act to make 9/11 look like a pie in the face.
posted by mek at 4:56 AM on March 17, 2005


I haven't heard of the Sikhs practicing any major terrorist operations since that one. Has the situation been defused over time, or is it lost in the noise about Kashmir?
posted by atchafalaya at 5:39 AM on March 17, 2005


one of the worst terrorist acts prior to September 11th, 2001

fairmettle, thanks for pointing that up. as usual, terrorism by states - the vast majority of violence used to create terror, obviously - gets forgotten. let's remember the victims of the air india bombing, but let's remember the many orders of magnitude more victims who were - and are! - the victims of brutal institutions instead of individuals and small groups.
posted by paul! at 6:03 AM on March 17, 2005


Okay, to answer my own question, an article from the BBC.
posted by atchafalaya at 6:13 AM on March 17, 2005


Nish Mukerji (#174) was my high school physics teacher. He was a good man.
posted by ChuqD at 6:18 AM on March 17, 2005


The genocide of North American Indians doesn't rank in the "Worst Terrorist Acts" hit parade? Then I'm guessing Hiroshima and Nagasaki are definitely out of the question.

Because it's important to bring up America's sordid past in a thread about the Canadian government and Indian extremists.
posted by Cyrano at 7:15 AM on March 17, 2005


mek: thanks for the logic explanation - that's what I was getting at. And your reply was much less snarky than mine would have been. The Globe and Mail illustrated the point perfectly on their front page this morning: "Not guilty" next to pictures of the two defendants, and "Innocent" beside a listing of every single person who died in the bombing.

and fairmettle: fuck you. It was completely clear that we were discussing the sort of "terrorism" that Americans associate with the word - and the problem that Americans seem to think that sort of terrorism originated on 9/11 or possibly at Oklahoma City. And same to you, paul! We'll remember the victims of other violence when it's appropriate, but we don't fucking have to do that here. I'd continue but since this feels like blatant trolling, it's not really worth my time to get agitated over this.
posted by livii at 7:21 AM on March 17, 2005


It's time that the Canadian populace started called for some housecleaning in the RCMP and CSIS.
posted by orange swan at 7:33 AM on March 17, 2005


I would say that since this case is 20 years old, the bulk of the housecleaning has already occurred through attrition.
posted by mischief at 8:02 AM on March 17, 2005


Then why aren't the people who are there now able to get a conviction in this case?
posted by orange swan at 8:41 AM on March 17, 2005


livii writes " We'll remember the victims of other violence when it's appropriate, but we don't fucking have to do that here."

Sarcasm?
posted by asok at 8:49 AM on March 17, 2005


327: "Relative to our total population, this event claimed more lives than 911."

That is true. However, the Air India bombing was an act of terrorism directed at India and which incidentally killed many Canadians. Thus many Canadians not directly involved will not share the same sense of shock, horror, and personal involvement that Americans associate with 9/11. It was not an attack on our institutions, our culture, or in any real sense an indictment of our values or way of life.

orange swan : "the people who are [in CSIS / RCMP now aren't] able to get a conviction" because they have yet to master the time machine. The accused are not going to confess again, and part of the problem is two decades of intimidation by the terrorist groups, so that few will come forward and testify, or must do so in secret, and who in any case testified inconsistently. Opportunities were missed or bungled, and that is not always so easily repaired.
posted by onshi at 9:01 AM on March 17, 2005


mr_roboto: What the fuck?! How can you possible be serious? Are you suggesting that you might consider the possibly that orphans are better off dead? Let me make up your mind for you: the scenario in which the children do not die is better. Especially for the children, who come out of it not dead.

Step back a minute and try to conceptualize the thought experiment. Say you hear of a bus crashing. There are 6 people on the bus: 2 children, their parents and two other unrelated adults. In that instant before the news reveals the breakdown which situation would you find less horrible (note not good just less horrific)and there for hope for:
1) the whole family is wiped out leaving the two strangers
2) the children survive and all the adults are killed
3) one of the parents and one of the children survive the others are killed.

davejay's point is he can't decide between 1 and 2. Many people don't find any difference. Personally I think 1 and 2 are interchangeably horrible and 3 is the most horrible.
posted by Mitheral at 9:18 AM on March 17, 2005


It was not an attack on our institutions, our culture, or in any real sense an indictment of our values or way of life.

I know what you're saying, but while it the attack may not have been directed at Canadian values and way of life, those things were among the casualties. I think we can say that we experienced an act of terrorism against our nation even though Canada specifically was not the target.
posted by 327.ca at 9:20 AM on March 17, 2005


That people in this thread knew people on that plane, makes it feel a lot closer than halfway across the world and twenty years ago.
So sad that the case was botched like that.
posted by dabitch at 11:21 AM on March 17, 2005


Gahd.

One of the most frustrating things about being Canadian is watching our RCMP and CSIS cock-up every time there's something big or dangerous. Real nice guys, I'm sure, but hopeless.

In what should have been and open-and-shut case, with full-on admissions of guilt, what do they do? Fuck it up irrevocably.

Gah.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:37 AM on March 17, 2005


I have a lot of respect for that judge. In a world where terrorism suspects are held in prison camps without trial, and in a case with twenty years' worth of pressure for closure, he stuck with the basic tenets of justice. Given the evidence presented, and the apparent lack of credibility of the witnesses, a guilty verdict would have been a failure of the justice system. I was relieved to find Christie Blatchford's column in the Globe this morning arguing this point.

I'm in complete agreement here with everyone who's blaming CSIS et al. for bungling the investigation and its evidence, but it's comforting to think that out of all these systems which are broken, the system of justice is still working to some extent.

As for appeals and inquiries, I don't think this case can go any further. No more evidence will turn up, and the alleged mastermind behind the case was killed in a shootout in Punjab in 1992.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 12:25 PM on March 17, 2005


There are 6 people on the bus: 2 children, their parents and two other unrelated adults....davejay's point is he can't decide between 1 and 2.

Huh? Where are you getting these two extra people from? davejay said, "I can never make up my mind on which is worse: parents dying in something like this and leaving infants or young children behind, or the entire family dying in something like this together." His choice is between an entire family dying and two members of that family dying. Both scenerios are tragic, but the children are better off if they're not dead.


...the alleged mastermind behind the case was killed in a shootout in Punjab in 1992.

Thank heaven for small favors.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:40 PM on March 17, 2005


The bright side of CSIS/police incompetence (if that's what it is, I'm no professional) in Canada is the primary reason for it: lack of practice. And thank heaven for that.

In the region I grew up, for example, the police don't even have a homicide division; instead, it's called 'Major Crimes'. Outside of the very largest cities, one wonders how effectively homicides are investigated when they do happen given how rare they are.
posted by onshi at 10:46 PM on April 13, 2005


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