Three Indian Nationals Accused of Murder in Canadian Court

Three Indian suspects appeared in court via video to face murder charges in the killing of Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The incident has strained India-Canada relations. The suspects are accused of being members of a hit squad. The three suspects, Karan Brar, Kamalpreet Singh, and Karanpreet Singh, are all Indian nationals residing in Edmonton. The court has adjourned their cases to May 21st to allow them to consult with their lawyers. The suspects have been denied contact with seven individuals named by the Crown prosecutor under a section of the Canada Criminal Code. They face life imprisonment if convicted of first-degree murder. The case is expected to be tried in Canada, and if found guilty, the suspects would not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.

PTI | Ottawa | Updated: 08-05-2024 09:20 IST | Created: 08-05-2024 09:20 IST
Three Indian Nationals Accused of Murder in Canadian Court
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Three Indian nationals accused of killing Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar last year have appeared before a Canadian court through video for the first time to face homicide charges in a case that has soured Canada-India relations.

Karan Brar, 22, Kamalpreet Singh, 22, and Karanpreet Singh, 28, all Indian nationals residing in Edmonton, were arrested and charged on Friday with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

They appeared separately by video in front of a packed Surrey provincial courtroom on Tuesday to acknowledge the charges of first-degree murder and conspiring to commit murder and to agree to have their cases adjourned to May 21 to give them time to consult with their lawyers, the Vancouver Sun newspaper reported.

The three - believed to be members of an alleged hit squad - appeared before the Surrey Provincial Court in British Columbia province, the report said. Each of them appeared separately from North Fraser Pretrial Centre wearing jail-issued red T-shirts or sweatshirts and sweatpants.

Two of the accused appeared in the morning while Kamalpreet Singh's appearance was delayed until after lunch to give him time to consult with a lawyer.

All three agreed to have the proceedings heard in English and each of them nodded that they understood the charges of first-degree murder and conspiring to murder Nijjar, the report said.

The court granted the Crown prosecutor's request for a no-contact order naming seven people under a Canada Criminal Code section that bans the accused from communicating directly or indirectly with any of them.

Those named on the order are Nijjar's son Balraj Nijjar, 21, and Harjinder Nijjar, Mehtab Nijjar, Sarandeep Sehaj, Harsimranjeet Singh, Arshdeep Kapoor and Malkit Singh, the report added.

The three accused men had a brief appearance before an adjudicator on Saturday for an interim judicial release hearing, after which they were kept in custody.

Their next step would be to have their lawyers apply for bail, said Surrey criminal and immigration lawyer Affan Bajwa, who has no connection to the case.

Bajwa said their chances of being released on bail would depend on whether their lawyers could make a strong case to the judge.

"I think it may be difficult for them to be released on bail because of a possible flight risk and risk to public safety," he said.

Bajwa also said if the case goes ahead, the men would be tried in Canada and if found guilty of first-degree murder would have no chance of parole for at least 25 years.

If they are foreign nationals or permanent residents, as soon as they're released, they would face a deportation hearing by the Canada Border Services Agency, he said.

If found not guilty, they could still be deported, according to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in September in which the nine judges unanimously ruled that a foreign national could be deemed inadmissible to Canada on security grounds under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of "being a danger to the security of Canada," according to Canadian Lawyer Magazine, the Vancouver Sun report said.

Hundreds of local Khalistan supporters showed up at the courthouse. A separate overflow room inside the courthouse was opened to accommodate an additional 50 people who wanted to witness the hearing.

Another 100 or so people outside the courthouse waved Khalistan flags and carried posters supporting Sikh separatism.

Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, was shot dead outside a gurdwara in Surrey on June 18, 2023.

The indictments Friday allege the conspiracy unfolded in both Surrey and Edmonton between May 1, 2023, and the date of Nijjar's killing.

The alleged hitmen entered Canada over the past five years and were suspected of involvement in the world of drug trafficking and violence, according to local police.

India had on Thursday rejected fresh comments by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the killing of Nijjar and said the remarks once again illustrated the political space given in Canada to separatism, extremism, and violence.

Trudeau addressed a Khalsa Day event in Toronto on Sunday that was attended by some pro-Khalistan supporters.

The ties between India and Canada came under severe strain following Trudeau's allegations in September last year of the ''potential'' involvement of Indian agents in the killing of 45-year-old Nijjar.

India has dismissed Trudeau's charges as ''absurd'' and ''motivated.'' The presence of Sikh separatist groups in Canada has long frustrated India, which had designated Nijjar a ''terrorist.'' The police suggested more arrests might be coming. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Assistant Commissioner David Teboul, the force's commander for the Pacific region, said Friday that he wouldn't comment on the alleged links between the three men arrested and Indian officials but noted the force is ''investigating connections to the government of India.'' External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday said what is happening in poll-bound Canada over the killing of Nijjar is mostly due to their internal politics and has nothing to do with India.

He said a section of pro-Khalistan people are using Canada's democracy, creating a lobby and have become a vote bank.

The ruling party in Canada has no majority in Parliament and some parties depend on pro-Khalistan leaders, he said.

"We have convinced them several times not to give visa, legitimacy or political space to such people which is causing problems for them (Canada), for us and also for our relationship," Jaishankar said.

But the Canadian government has not done anything, Jaishankar said, adding that India sought the extradition of 25 people, most of whom are pro-Khalistan, but they did not pay any heed.

"Canada did not give any proof. They do not share any evidence with us in certain cases, police agencies also do not cooperate with us. It is their political compulsion in Canada to blame India. As elections are coming in Canada, they indulge in vote bank politics," the minister said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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