Detainee Denies Murdering Air India Witness

Detainee denies murdering Air India witness

Richard Cuthbertson
Calgary Herald
Published: Friday, October 17, 2008

A man once questioned by police in connection with the assassination of a high-profile B.C. newspaper publisher 10 years ago denied through his lawyer on Thursday he had anything to do with the murder.

Manjit Singh Rattu is currently being held at the Calgary Remand Centre. On Thursday, he faced an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing to determine if he should remain in custody pending his deportation from Canada to India.

But when Rattu will be deported is becoming anyone's guess.

The Canada Border Services Agency is hamstrung as Rattu, whose Indian passport is no longer valid, is refusing to sign travel documents the Indian government requires for his transport back to that country.

Meanwhile, Rattu's lawyer, Rakesh Dewett, said at Thursday's hearing his client has been cleared of any involvement in the murder of Tara Singh Hayer.

Hayer, the founder of the Indo-Canadian Times, was an outspoken member of the Sikh community who at the time of his murder had agreed to be a witness in the Air India bombing trial. Hayer was shot to death on Nov. 18, 1998.

“My client has gone through substantial procedure and he has gone through polygraphic test,” Dewett said of Rattu. “He was declared cleared. He hasn't done anything.”

Rattu came to Canada in 1995, but was denied refugee status two years later and was issued a conditional departure order.

It doesn't appear that Hayer's death has anything to do with Rattu's detention nor his deportation. What is at issue are a series of criminal charges the man has racked up across the country during the past decade.

Many are related to fraud, although most were either stayed or withdrawn. He has used several identities, according to transcripts of earlier detention hearings.

Rattu was arrested on accusations of fraud in Toronto in 2006; those charges were subsequently withdrawn or stayed. Upon his arrest, RCMP officers from B.C. headed to Toronto to question Rattu about Hayer's death, according to a report in the Vancouver Sun.

The Canada Border Services Agency is in contact with the High Commission of India in Ottawa in an attempt to get Rattu travel documents without his consent. However, hearing officer Pete Stathakos said this didn't look likely to succeed.

Rattu had once been a permanent resident of the United States, but the Americans have indicated Rattu's permanent residency has expired and they don't want him back.

Dewett argued Thursday his client should be released from custody under conditions so he can work to retrieve his American status and return to the U.S. The lawyer said his client's life is in jeopardy if he returns to India.

“He is escaping from India to save his life,” he said.

Paul Kyba, the member of the immigration division of the IRB who presided over the Thursday's hearing, agreed Rattu posed a flight risk.

“I am ordering your detention to continue again today,” Kyba told Rattu.

Kyba refused to grant a publication ban.