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B.C. judge orders mother, uncle extradited to India in 'honour killing’

VANCOUVER — A mother and uncle accused in the so-called “honour” killing of a young British Columbia woman have been ordered turned over to police in India to face trial for her murder.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge recounted the tragic details of Jaswinder (Jassi) Sidhu’s life and death on Friday as he announced the pair should be extradited.

“Jassi secretly married,” Justice Gregory Finch said in a Vancouver courtroom. “She did so contrary to the wishes of her family, who wanted her to accept an arranged marriage.

“Jassi was in love with Mithu, excited about spending her life with him and planning to bring him to Canada.”

Married on March 15, 1999, the 25-year-old newlywed was found dead on June 8, 2000, her throat slit. Her husband survived the attack.

Indian police allege Malkit Kaur Sidhu, her mother, and Surjit Singh Badesha, her maternal uncle, ordered her death when she refused to annul her clandestine marriage to a poor rickshaw driver.

Finch went over testimony from friends and RCMP officers, in whom Jassi Sidhu confided her love and her fears.

After Jassi Sidhu’s family discovered her marriage at the beginning of 2000, friends and a former neighbour testified that the young woman was assaulted and threatened. She was locked in her room. Her passport was taken away, her bank account locked.

“Badesha and Sidhu resorted to violence and threats of violence,” Finch said.

The judge noted that at one point she was surrounded by eight to 10 family members — aunts, cousins, her mother and uncle — who hit and slapped her for refusing to abandon the union. She showed up for work the next day with bruises.

“Jassi feared for her life and Mithu’s life, was worried that something was going to be done to them and did not know what they were capable of,” Finch said.

“Badesha threatened to kill Jassi if she returned to India. Despite the emotional pressures, threats and physical abuse to which she was subjected, Jassi continued to defy her family’s wishes and returned to India to preserve her marriage and bring Mithu to Canada to live with her.”

On Feb. 1, 2000, the first of 266 phone calls took place between the Badesha home and the four men eventually convicted of Jassi Sidhu’s murder in India, Finch noted.

Malkit Sidhu and Badesha appeared in court via video-link.

Dressed in a jail-issue dark green sweatsuit, Sidhu sat motionless with her hands loosely in her lap. Badesha, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit with a blue kerchief covering his head, leaned forward as the judge revisited evidence, his face dropping out of view on the courtroom monitor.

The pair fought extradition, arguing there wasn’t enough evidence to send them to India.

Malkit Kaur Sidhu’s lawyer acknowledged his client was upset with the marriage, but said that didn’t prove she conspired to have her daughter killed.

Badesha’s lawyer suggested the passage of time and widespread coverage of the crime — including a movie and a book based on her life — made witness testimony unreliable.

Jim Longridge, the former principal at Jassi Sidhu’s high school in Maple Ridge, was in court Friday to hear the decision.

He remembers a quiet, friendly and studious girl. He said he didn’t realize the situation she faced at home.

“I couldn’t believe she’s been murdered and apparently nothing was going to be done about it,” said Longridge, who spent years writing letters to politicians and police asking for action in Canada on her murder overseas.

“These two people — her mother and uncle — were walking around Maple Ridge as though they weren’t involved,” he said. “It wasn’t right.”

Badesha, now 69, and Sidhu, 65, remain in custody until their surrender to Indian authorities. They can appeal the extradition order to the federal justice minister.

 
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