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Former Canada high court judge assails handling of Air India case as inquiry opens

[JURIST] A retired Canadian Supreme Court justice said Wednesday that major flaws plaguing the Canadian justice system contributed to the mismanagement of the criminal trial and investigation into the 1985 bombing of an Air India flight [CBC backgrounder] from Montreal that exploded over the Atlantic near Ireland, killing 329 people, most of them Canadians. A judicial inquiry into the bombing, headed by former justice John C. Major [official profile] and announced [JURIST report] by Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official website] last month, opened today with a statement from Major, who is slated to begin hearing evidence on September 25 and is expected to report his findings by September 2007. The inquiry will examine whether terrorist threats have been eliminated and whether systemic problems concerning terrorism and other crimes have been resolved, but it will not determine culpability.

The 1985 bombing was the largest single modern terror attack against a Western target before September 11, 2001, and it resulted in the longest and most expensive trial in Canadian history. Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Sing Bagri were tried on charges [indictment, PDF] of conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree murder of the passengers and crew of Air India Flight 182, and attempted murder of the passengers and crew, but the suspects were acquitted on all charges [JURIST report] last year. Reuters has more. Canadian Press has additional coverage.

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