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4 murder suspects make court appearance in Surrey temple president shooting

The 4 suspects will next appear in Surrey provincial court on June 25
Moninder Singh, of the BC Gurdwaras Council, and to his right Bhupinder Singh Hothi, general secretary of Surrey’s Guru Nanak Gurdwara, speaking to the media outside Surrey provincial court on May 21. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Three of four men charged in the June 18, 2023 shooting death of Surrey gurdwara president Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, appeared in person in red prison garb in a high-security courtroom in Surrey provincial court Tuesday, May 21 while the fourth appeared remotely from Ontario, where he is being held.

Judge Emmet Duncan set their next court appearance for June 25 after Crown prosecutor Marcel Daigle explained the adjournment “is to allow Crown to comply with its disclosure obligations.”

Nijjar was shot to death in the parking lot of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Newton. He was found in his truck suffering from gunshot wounds.

Duncan reaffirmed a court order made by Judge Mark Jette on May 15 that the four are not to have contact with three members of Nijjar’s family and four other people. Jette had also made a mandatory detention order under Section 515 (11) of the Criminal Code, with the help of a Punjabi interpreter.

Amandeep Singh, 22, Karan Brar, 22, Kamalpreet Singh, 22, and Karanpreet Singh, 28, are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Amandeep Singh appeared remotely while the other three accused appeared in person.

Amandeep Singh had to make his first “appearance” in Surrey provincial court on May 15 by telephone from Ontario. When he was arrested by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) on May 11, he was already in custody at the time for unrelated firearm charges out of Peel Regional Police in Ontario. “Because of technical incompatibility between our court and courts in Ontario, Mr. Singh is not able to appear by video,” Jette noted.

“Specifically I’m told that the Ontario court system uses a different messaging system than we do and they’re not able to communicate with each other.”

While B.C. uses Microsoft Teams, Ontario uses Zoom.

On May 7, demonstrators gathered outside of Surrey provincial court while Karan Brar, Karanpreet Singh and Kamalpreet Singh made their first court appearance virtually by video. Community members outside came with flags and signs, with some reciting religious chants quietly under their breaths as they hoped to learn more about how the Crown’s case will unfold.

May 15 saw a second round of this.

Bhupinder Singh Hothi, general secretary of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, said outside the courthouse that it’s the group’s intention to attend every court appearance.

“We are all ready to attend all the hearings that will be held in this case,” he said.

“Because it is our leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, that got murdered and you know the cause he got murdered for, for raising his voice for the own Khalistan,” Hothi said. “So he was our leader of that moment so that’s why we all agree that we should be here at all appearances.”

“You cannot erase the voice of Khalistan, there is no fear, such fear,” he added.

Hothi also spoke outside the courthouse May 21 amid a crowd of supporters bearing signs with slogans.

He accused the suspects of being “foot soldiers” of the Indian government and maintains the federal government needs to arrest more people.

Moninder Singh, of the BC Gurdwara Council, was next to speak. Asked by the Now-Leader what it was like to be so close in court to those accused of murdering Nijjar, he replied that “for anyone that’s here, seeing them on TV or seeing them in person, I think it draws out a bit of emotion. We need to actually get the trial underway, we need to get a conviction and we need to get a sentencing, that’s how the community feels right now.”

Seeing them in person, he said, “is a reminder for us” that the accused “were used by India” and more “will come tomorrow or next year.”

“It’s really more up to what we can do in Canada to ensure that India is held accountable at the highest levels,” he added. “All of that has to be kind of brought into the public sphere. So seeing them, while it draws out emotion over the loss that we suffered as a community, it also provides a galvanizing moment for the community to kind of focus back on India. This trial will take its course, but India is still out there and we’re pretty sure that this isn’t over on their behalf either.”

“Until this comes to a conclusion,” he told reporters, “I think people will be shaken, but again they’re very committed to getting justice for Hardeep Singh, ensuring that the Khalistan movement that he was fighting for is pushed forward.

“We’re just at the beginning of the proceedings right now,” Moninder Singh said. “We know these things take time.

“While we’re OK with the way that the proceedings are going so far but we don’t want this to kind of stretch on for years.”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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