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

Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Photo: IANS

Ottawa: Four Indian nationals accused of killing Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar last year in Surrey were ordered by a Canadian court to have no contact with several people in the community, as they made their first joint appearance before it in the case that has severely strained ties between India and Canada.

Three of the four suspects -- Karan Brar (22), Kamalpreet Singh (22) and 28-year-old Karanpreet Singh -- appeared in person for the first time in British Columbia provincial court in Surrey. The fourth suspect -- Amandeep Singh (22) -- appeared by video link. Amandeep Singh remains in custody in Ontario where he was facing unrelated weapons offences before being arrested on May 10 for Nijjar's killing.

Judge Mark Jette spoke to the men through an interpreter as he placed them under a no-contact order, before adjourning until the suspects' next appearance on June 25, CBC News reported. Prosecutor Marcel Daigle said the time until the next hearing will allow the Crown to fulfil its evidentiary disclosure obligations to the suspects' lawyers. Those appearing in person wore red prison sweatsuits as they entered the courtroom.

Richard Fowler, the lawyer representing Karan Brar, told the Vancouver Sun, "it's completely understandable given the context why there is an enormous amount of community interest in this case. That level of community interest makes ensure that those charged with these offences have a fair trial".

Attendees at the latest hearing for the men were searched before entering the courthouse, while the supporters of Nijjar held a protest outside. Sheriffs at the hearing placed peoples' phones in plastic zipper bags and kept them outside the courtroom in plastic bins, with the judge warning observers that recording audio and taking pictures was prohibited, the report added.

Nijjar, 45, was killed outside Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia on June 18, 2023. The ties between India and Canada came under severe strain following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations in September last year of the "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Nijjar. India has dismissed Trudeau's charges as "absurd" and "motivated." Nijjar, a Khalistani separatist, was wanted in India on various terror charges.

India has been asserting that its "core issue" with Canada remained that of the space given to separatists, terrorists and anti-India elements in that country.

Following Trudeau's allegations last year, India temporarily suspended the issuance of visas to Canadian citizens. The visa services were resumed several weeks later. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had recently said that by allowing political space to Khalistani separatist elements, the Canadian government is sending a message that its vote bank is "more powerful" than its rule of law.

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