Did federal justice minister ignore due process in extradition case of suspects wanted in alleged honour killing of Jassi Sidhu?

Malkit Kaur Sidhu and Surjit Singh Badesha. Photos courtesy of CBC
Malkit Kaur Sidhu and Surjit Singh Badesha.
Photos courtesy of CBC

THE stage is set for the B.C. Court of Appeal to see if the federal justice minister ignored due process in the extradition case of two suspects wanted by India in the alleged honour killing in Punjab of a young B.C. woman.

On June 8, 2000, Jaswinder (Jassi) Kaur Sidhu, 25, a resident of Maple Ridge was brutally murdered in Punjab, India. Her husband Sukwinder (Mithu) Singh Sidhu, a poor rickshaw driver, was also seriously injured in the attack carried out by contract killers who were allegedly hired by his wife’s mother Malkit Kaur Sidhu and uncle Surjit Singh Badesha in B.C.

Sukwinder (Mithu) Singh Sidhu and Jaswinder Kaur (Jassi) Sidhu.

A Punjab Police team that had come to Canada to take custody of the two accused last year in September were stopped at the last minute at Toronto airport and had to return to India empty-handed.

Last January, The VOICE had reported that Vancouver defence lawyer Michael Klein told this newspaper that the lawyers for Malkit Sidhu and Badesha were seeking disclosure about any documentation that will disclose to them why and how their clients were removed from their jails to be presumably sent on their way to India. Klein said this was to advance an argument made earlier last year that there was an abuse of process and that the extradition surrender should be stayed.

Now the lawyers for the accused want to cross-examine the RCMP officers who were allegedly under pressure from the federal government to keep its attempt to expedite the extradition of their clients to show that their rights were violated as they were transferred to Ontario and try to get their surrender order stayed.

According to a National Post newspaper report on Thursday, the RCMP officers were told to keep the suspects out of public view and prevent them from making calls as they were secretly taken to Toronto from Vancouver on September 20, 2017, to be handed to Indian police.

The defence lawyers say the internal RCMP communications, which have now been filed in the B.C. Court of Appeal, show that the actions of federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould “demonstrate a complete disregard for the due process of law and an intention on the part of the minister to obstruct justice.”

The National Post reported that responses filed this week by the federal justice department’s lawyers say that any further delays in extraditing the pair would have tarnished the integrity of the justice system and Canada’s international reputation.

They argued” “Conveying Mr. Badesha and Ms. Sidhu to India immediately to stand trial for a brutal and notorious killing of a family member is not an abuse of process.”

According to RCMP documents, the government wanted to remove the accused quickly and discreetly because news of their transfer had been leaked to Indian media.

One RCMP email stated: “This is a high profile extradition with significant political pressures from many interested parties. The more we can keep our two prisoners out of view from the general public, in secure areas and avoiding/bypassing security the better.”

Officers escorting the accused were told: “Ottawa wanted me to remind the pick up/transport team that no phone calls are permitted by the prisoners.”

However, the lawyers for the accused finally succeeded in preventing their clients from being transferred to Indian police in Toronto as they filed an after-hours application to the B.C. Court of Appeal for a judicial review.