Air India Bombing Trial

 ANCHOR: Almost 20 years after two explosions killed 331 people a verdict will be delivered today in the Air India bombing trial in Vancouver. The two suspects face eight charges including first degree murder, attempted murder and conspiracy in the 1985 bombings. [GRAPHIC: Ajaib Singh Ripudaman Singh] ANCHOR: Prosecutors say Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri were part of secret extremist group angry at the Indian government. Joseph Neuberger is a criminal lawyer here in Toronto and he joins us live this morning with a look at what's expected to happen today. Let's start with this, how come this took so long, 20 years in the making? JOSEPH NEUBERGER: Well, considering the bombing resulted in the plane downing in the ocean off of the coast of Ireland, the forensic exploration of the case was very difficult. Gathering of evidence to assist in what happened at the various airports was extremely difficult. Taking statements and sifting through what surveillance was done, all is a very colossal undertaking and in some respects it's quite remarkable that the authorities, the police together with the prosecutors were able to put together a case and marshal it through to the end of a trial. It is a difficult, difficult undertaking. ANCHOR: Now in the years of court reporting I've done, I've often found it difficult to get a lawyer to come out and say anything definitively one way or the other. Having said that, what do you expect to hear today? JOSEPH NEUBERGER: Well, it's going to be a long judgment that's going to be read probably by the judge. And I wouldnt be surprised if there is going to be some critical comments about the credibility or what you can call the believability of some witnesses. [GRAPHIC: Ajaib Singh Ripudaman Singh] JOSEPH NEUBERGER: This is touted as the longest most complex and most expensive investigation and trial in Canadian history. [GRAPHIC: Courtroom drawing] JOSEPH NEUBERGER: Indeed it involves the death of 329 people. But for all of that, it really comes down to the evidence of five key Crown witnesses. [GRAPHIC: Courtroom drawing] JOSEPH NEUBERGER: One of the witnesses who was an accused, Reyat, he testified in a manner consistent with what his evidence was. But really he didnt implicate anybody. He didnt assist in implicating Malik or Bagri. The other five witnesses all have prior relationships, three for Malik, two for Bagri. There are some issues with respect to disputes between the witnesses and the accused persons. There is some history there. And it all revolves around statements that were made by these people, the accused people, many, many years ago that are what we call situationally, you know, inculpatory. In other words, they've made statements that my bag, I want to drop it off at the airport. I need your car to drop off the bags. They're going to be going on a flight but I'm not. These types of comments, we call them admissions but when nobody is making notes and people aren't recording them and there may be all sorts of reasons for a witness to come forward and say something negative about an accused, you can really expect the judge to focus very clearly on the issue of credibility of these witnesses. Are they believable? Is there evidence confirmed by other evidence? And so I expect the justice to spend a lot of his time talking about credibility. ANCHOR: But does that, all of that add up to a not guilty verdict? JOSEPH NEUBERGER: Well, I'm sort of hinting. I wouldnt be surprised given what I understand how the evidence came out, I wouldnt be surprised if there would be not guilty verdicts. I'm not saying for sure, but I wouldnt be surprised. It's a difficult, difficult case. There was a lot of difficulties with the evidence. So it wouldnt shock me. It's an extremely serious case and it's very important to be very careful with the evidence. And I think everybody, I mean the families are flying in from all over the world with respect to, you know, their family members who died. So it's extremely tragic. There's a lot of pressure on this case, but I wouldnt be surprised if you adhere to the rules of evidence and to credibility issues that there may be findings of not guilty. But, you know, there may be other evidence that can support their testimony and result in verdicts of guilty. ANCHOR: And I believe we get that information, expected to come down about 1:00 our time today. JOSEPH NEUBERGER: That's correct. ANCHOR: Joseph Neuberger, thanks very much for joining us this morning. JOSEPH NEUBERGER: My pleasure.