Air India bomb maker released from halfway house
The only man convicted in the 1985 Air India bombings has been granted additional freedom.
Inderjit Singh Reyat, who built the bombs used in the notorious terror attacks, is no longer required to live in a halfway house, according to a Parole Board of Canada decision delivered late last month.
The board credited Reyat for embracing an anti-violence perspective since the bombings, which killed 331 people, even though psychologists have warned that view could disappear under the wrong circumstances.
"According to psychological assessments your risk to re-offend is low, however if there were a threat to your Sikh cause, your risk for future… group violence is high," the parole board's Jan. 26 decision reads.
There's no information to suggest that cause is currently under threat, the board added.
Reyat has also demonstrated no desire to re-establish contact with his co-accused, against whom he has steadfastly refused to testify.
"There have been no police concerns since your release, and the High Risk Target Team is supportive of the removal of your [halfway house] condition," the parole board wrote.
It’s unclear where Reyat could be living, but he remains under several other release conditions.
Despite the board’s reasons, news that Reyat has been allowed to move out of his halfway house was stunning to his victims' families and terror experts alike.
Bal Gupta of the Air India Victims' Families Association told CTV News that every step the bomb maker takes toward freedom reopens painful emotional wounds for him and others who lost loved ones in the attacks.
"It doesn't go away. Whether something good or bad happens in my life, we are set back in time by about 32 years," Gupta said.
Gupta said he accepts the law must take its course, but he still fears Reyat will go back to his old ways – a concern echoed by professor Andre Gerolymatos, co-director of Simon Fraser University’s terrorism program.
If Reyat were to reconnect with his associates, they would likely embrace him as a hero, according to Gerolymatos.
"It stands to reason that someone who has not divulged anything about his previous associations has done so for a reason: to maintain their trust," he said.
The professor also argued releasing Reyat even though he hasn't provided useful information to law enforcement sends the wrong message to potential terrorists.
"He knows a lot more information and it's remarkable that this man is allowed to go free," he said. "Someone is not thinking. Someone is not appreciating the context of this man's life and what he has done to Canadians and what he might do in the future."
Reyat is serving a seven-year sentence for perjury for repeatedly lying in the Air India trial. He was granted statutory release from prison and transferred to a halfway house in January 2016, though the location was never disclosed to the public for privacy concerns.
He was previously convicted of manslaughter, possession of a restricted weapon, possession of explosives, making an explosive substance with the intent to cause an explosion, and other counts in connections with the bombings, for which he was sentenced to 15 years behind bars.
Reyat’s release conditions require that he avoid extremist propaganda and people he has reason to believe are involved in extremism, crime or politics.
He is also barred from making any contact, directly or indirectly, with his victims' families.
Reyat must undergo mental health counselling to address "violence, empathy and cognitive disorders” as well, and he’s prohibited from possessing components that could be used to build explosive devices.
With files from The Canadian Press