Sikh separatist Atwal apologises over Trudeau event

Sikh separatist Atwal apologises over Trudeau event

  • 9 March 2018
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Trudeau was on his first state visit to India.

An alleged Sikh extremist whose invitation to an official event with Canada's PM in India last month caused an uproar has apologised for "any embarrassment this matter has caused".

Justin Trudeau faced criticism after inviting Jaspal Atwal to a reception. The invitation was later withdrawn.

Mr Atwal, a Canadian citizen of Indian origin, was convicted of trying to assassinate an Indian minister in 1986.

He is accused of having been aligned at the time with a Sikh separatist group.

"I am sorry for any embarrassment this matter has caused to Canada, India, my community and my family," Mr Atwal, 62, was quoted as telling reporters by the AFP news agency.

"I renounce any form of terrorism. I do not advocate for an independent Sikh nation. I, like the vast majority of Sikhs who once advocated for this cause, have reconciled with the nation of India."

His invitation embarrassed the visiting delegation, which had been trying to allay concerns it was too soft on separatists who support a Sikh independence movement, called the "Khalistan movement".

It seeks to create an independent homeland for the community in the Sikh-dominated northern state of Punjab.

The invitation to a dinner hosted by Canada's high commissioner in Delhi was quickly revoked.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Mr Trudeau publicly blamed the gaffe on an MP from his party who extended the invite to Mr Atwal.

Mr Atwal was convicted along with three others of shooting Indian minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu while he was in Vancouver on a personal visit in 1986. He was paroled in 1992.

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He said since his parole, he had engaged in politics on behalf of the Indo-Canadian community.

He had also visited India numerous times, including three visits over the past year, each time "with the full permission of the Indian government," Mr Atwal added.

"There were also no restrictions placed on me by Canada so that I could not travel," he added.

Before his latest trip, Mr Atwal said he reached out to his local MP to ask if he could attend a reception with Trudeau in India.

"I had assumed there would be no problems. No one had at any point indicated there would be any issues," he said.

Canada has a large Sikh community and Mr Trudeau's cabinet includes four Sikh-Canadians.