By Our Staff Reporter
NEW ARK N.J.: The trial of Sukhminder Singh Sandhu and Ranjit Singh Gill opened here on Monday, February 1, 1988 in the court of the Federal Magistrate. The Judge, who is technically a magistrate, exhibited considerable prejudice against the accused during the proceedings, according to the Defense Attorney, Mr. Ronald Kuby. “You don’t have to 20 to India to experience Indian kind ‘of justice, it is available here also”. he told World Sikh News in a telephone interview while commenting over the questionable manner in which the accused were brought to the court heavily chained and handcuffed as if they had already been convicted as dangerous criminals.
There were extraordinary security arrangements all around the court and more than fifty F.BI Officials were keeping a strict vigil all through the proceedings. Metal detectors were installed and American Sikhs attending the court were subjected to elaborate searches, Streets near the federal courthouse were condoned off.
Gill and Sandhu are accused by the Indian government in the assignation of a retired Commander in Chief of the Indian Army Gen AS. Vaidya who was shot to death on August 10, 1986, and a member of Parliament, Lalit Maken and his wife who were killed on July 31, 1985.
The two, Mr. Kuby said, were not involved in the killing of Gen. Vaidya or Mr Maken. In fact, both the accused were in the United States when the General was gunned down.
Mr. Kuby protested the elaborate security arrangements saying they could prejudice the case against his clients. He also objected to the heavy chains and handcuffs The Magistrate has allegedly. Received one or more threats. Curiosity, the threats started coming only after the arrival of a team of C.B1 officials from India, said Mr. Kuby.
Rejecting the evidence produced by the Indian officials which the defense counsel! Pointed out, named Sukhvinder Singh rather than Sukhminder Singh as the person who was wanted in one case and someone in the Indian police had subsequently changed the letter V to M with an overwriting. The Defense Counsel also pointed out that the eyewitness to the Punjab National Bank Robbery described the bank robber as thin whereas Sukhminder Singh was well built, his complexion was given as whitish, whereas he 1s whitish, his age was given as 34-35 years whereas Sukhminder is 24 years old
But the Magistrate did not entertain these discrepancies and according to Mr. Kuby, his mind is already made up. The Defense Counsel suggested to him give up. The hearing in view of his apparent prejudice but he refused. Today only Sukhminder’s case was taken ups Ranjit’s attorney Mr. Kunstler could not attend the court. The hearing will be resumed tomorrow.
The case has assumed great importance in view of Indian government using its political pressure upon the U.S. government to get the two extradited; Sikhs in America and Canada on the other hand are determined to thwart the Indian government’s efforts. They maintain that the two boys would be killed in some fake encounter and they can’t even hope to get justice from the Indian courts that take their orders from the Executive. Commenting on the case the W.S.O. Governing Council Member, Dr. Gurinder Singh Grewal said that “it is not simply the two boys on trial but the entire Sikh nation is on trial”. “The independence of American justice system is also on trial”, remarked Gurcharan Singh Dhillon, another member of W.S.O. Governing Council. The two have specially flown from California to attend the hearing.
A large number of Sikhs from New Jersey, New York, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and other places also attended the hearing including Amarjit Singh Grewal, S. Jagjit Singh Mangat, Chairman and President Sikh Cultural Society, New York, respectively, and Dr. Naunihal Singh, Director Administration W.S.O. The absence of other Sikh leaders particularly of Dr. Gurmit Singh Aulakh and Dr. Manohar Singh Grewal was considered unfortunate by the representatives of youth organizations present here, “What can we expect from the leaders who have no time for the real freedom fighters”, they said.
Commenting on the security arrangements and the allegedly prejudiced attitude of the Magistrate, Mr. Larry, a law student attending the hearing said, “I am ashamed of it all. This is not American type of justice”. American Sikhs on the other hand resented the preferential treatment given to the Indian officials by the court.
Article extracted from this publication >> February 5, 1988