By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver
Honour killing victim Jassi Sidhu’s mother has been granted bail by the B.C. Court of Appeal as she awaits the results of a court case that would determine whether she’s extradited to India to face murder charges.
Jassi — Malkit Kaur Sidhu’s daughter — was killed in June 2000 as she travelled with her new husband in the Indian state of Punjab. A group attacked the couple, taking Jassi away in a car.
Her body was found the next day in a nearby village. The case has since been named an honour killing — Sidhu had come from a relatively well-off family, while her husband was a poor rickshaw driver.
Her family, the court had heard, did not approve of the marriage.
The older Sidhu, 67, and Jassi’s uncle, Surjit Singh Badesha, now face charges in India related to her murder and the attack on her husband, who escaped that day with severe injuries. Seven others have already been convicted.
Sidhu had previously been ordered to be extradited by the federal government, but the B.C. court found India’s assurances that Sidhu would be safe in an Indian prison “unreasonable in light of the evidence of the prevalence of custodial torture and abuse of prisoners, especially female prisoners.”
The case was accepted for judicial review in February this year. So far, Sidhu has spent four and a half years in jail — her last bail application, made jointly with Badesha, was rejected in 2012.
“Although Ms. Sidhu faces prosecution for one of the most abhorrent of crimes, the public interest favours her release: she has been in custody for 4.5 years and has yet to be tried or convicted of any crime; she is 67 years old with deteriorating health … bail (is) granted on strict terms including house arrest,” wrote Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon in her decision.
The court also noted that Badesha may have influenced Sidhu’s actions, due to her gender, and that evidence in the case is stronger against the uncle, who remains in custody.