Three accused of Sikh activist's murder face court in person, fourth attends by video

SURREY, B.C. — A British Columbia judge has ordered four Indian nationals accused of murdering Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar to have no contact with several people in the community in the suspects' latest court appearance.

Three of the four suspects — Karan Brar, Kamalpreet Singh and Karanpreet Singh — appeared in person for the first time in B.C. Provincial Court in Surrey, with the fourth suspect appearing by video link.

Those appearing in person wore red prison sweatsuits as they entered the courtroom, while Amandeep Singh remained in custody in Ontario where he was facing unrelated weapons offences before being arrested on May 10 for Nijjar's killing.

Judge Emmet Duncan spoke to the men through an interpreter as he placed them under the no-contact order, before adjourning until the suspects' next appearance on June 25.

Prosecutor Marcel Daigle said the time until the next hearing will allow the Crown to fulfil its evidentiary disclosure obligations to the suspects' lawyers.

Attendees at the hearing were searched before entering the courthouse, while supporters of Nijjar and the Sikh separatist movement he championed rallied outside.

The four Indian nationals are all accused of murder and conspiracy over the killing last year that threw Canada's relations with India into disarray.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said credible intelligence linked Nijjar's death to Indian government involvement, but India has denied being involved in the case.

Nijjar was a key organizer for overseas voting on an independent Sikh state in India, and was gunned down in the parking lot of the Surrey temple where he was president in June 2023.

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.

Outside the courthouse, Sikhs gathered with signs and yellow flags emblazoned with Khalistan, the name of the homeland they're seeking to establish.

B.C. Gurdwaras Council spokesman Moninder Singh said after the hearing that those gathered outside were showing support for the community, Nijjar’s family and the Khalistan movement.

"We won't be silenced," Singh said. "I think that's the biggest thing for people right now is that we won't give in to the fear and the violence that India is trying to incite."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2024.

Darryl Greer, The Canadian Press