On June 23rd, 1985, a Boeing 747 took off from the Montréal-Mirabel International Airport in Quebec, Canada en route to New Delhi, India by way of London.  It reached Irish airspace before a bomb that had been snuck onto the plane detonated, ripping the commercial airliner from the sky and claiming the lives of 329 people.  It remains the largest mass murder Canada has ever seen, and until September 11th, 2001, it held the title of deadliest terrorist attack involving an aircraft in history.

Only one person was ever convicted of the crime.  Inderjit Singh Reyat, a Sikh that immigrated to Canada from India, was found guilty of making two bombs, one which was stuffed aboard Flight 182, the crash that claimed the lives of 329 people, the other exploded in Japan’s Narita airport, killing two more baggage handlers as they were transferring cargo out of a plane.

Reyat was again convicted of lying under oath in 2010, as he testified in the trials of the only two other people implicated in the attack.  They were each acquitted, due in no small part to Reyat’s deceit while on the stand.

And on Wednesday, the Canadian parole board announced that they have granted Reyat his freedom.

One year ago, Reyat was released from prison and ordered to reside in a halfway house after serving twenty years in prison.  Now the requirement for him to reside under supervision has been lifted, and Reyat is a free man once more.  The conditions of his release mandate that he can have no contact with the families of those who died by his hand, he must not participate in any political activities, and he must attend counseling for “violent tendencies, a lack of empathy and exaggerated beliefs.”

Canada’s justice system mandates a prison sentence of life for any first-degree murder, with the potential for parole coming after twenty-five years in most cases.  Additional periods of ineligibility can be placed in succession of the initial twenty-five year period for each additional person killed, meaning that if Reyat had been convicted of murder, rather than simply of making the bombs, he would never have seen the light of day again.

Instead, Reyat served only fifteen years for making the bombs that killed hundreds of innocent people, with an additional six for lying under oath on behalf of his accomplices.  Prosecutors assigned to the trail of Reyat’s co-conspirators, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, have said that they likely could have attained a conviction if Reyat had told the truth on the stand, and the judge in their case publicly called Reyat “an unmitigated liar,” at the time.

No nation’s judicial system is perfect, and it’s important to note that the United States’ system is rife with failings and shortcomings. Criticism levied at the Canadian government must not come from a sense of superiority, but instead, simple reason.

Depending on viewpoint, a prison sentence is delivered for one of two reasons.  Either your system is in place to reform criminals, or it serves as a means to humanely separate the dangerous from the innocent.

In either regard, Canada’s system has failed at its task by freeing a man that requires continued counseling for his violence and lack of empathy and who has demonstrated the capacity to kill large numbers of people.  He served less prison time than would be required by Canadian law for killing a single person, despite being responsible for the deaths of hundreds and being convicted again for aiding his accomplices as recently as 2010.

Inderjit Singh Reyat is a terrorist, a mass-murderer, and according to the Parole Board’s own reports, a man suffering from psychological conditions that make him prone to violence.  While their internal documents have not been released to the press thus far, one has to wonder… what on Earth was the parole board been thinking when they released this man back into the public?

Will they be held responsible if Reyat strikes again?


Image courtesy of the Associated Press