Three Indians accused of killing Khalistan separatist Nijjar appear before Canadian court


PTI, May 8, 2024, 8:47 AM IST

Ottawa: Three Indian nationals accused of killing Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar last year appeared before a Canadian court on Tuesday through video for the first time to face homicide charges as hundreds of local Khalistan supporters showed up at the courthouse.

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.

The three – believed to be members of an alleged hit squad – appeared before the Surrey Provincial Court in British Columbia province, the Vancouver Sun reported.

Each of them appeared separately from North Fraser Pretrial Centre wearing jail-issued red T-shirts or sweatshirts and sweatpants.

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.

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.’

After three Indian nationals were arrested in connection with the murder, Police in Canada said they had worked with US law enforcement agencies, without giving additional details.

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.

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