Police arrest three Indian nationals for murder of British Columbia Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar

Three people have been arrested and charged with the murder of British Columbia Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, as authorities continue to investigate possible connections to the Indian government.

Court documents show Karanpreet Singh, 28, Kamalpreet Singh, 22, and Karan Brar, 22, each face one count of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in Nijjar’s death.

All three are Indian nationals who were living in Edmonton when they were detained Friday morning, authorities said.

Investigators believe the men were in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18, 2023, the day Nijjar, 45, was shot to death outside his gurdwara in the city.

BC Gurdwaras Council spokesperson Moninder Singh said he and Nijjar’s family were informed by investigators in Surrey about the arrests, and that Nijjar’s children were “very excited.”

“Right now, there is a sigh of relief over the murder of his father,” Singh said. “There is a bit of anger and frustration around why this had to happen in the first place, and then there are a lot of questions around India.”

“Is this over?” she added. “How do we get back into our community and have a conversation about whether this is safe or not?”

Potential links with India

Speaking at a news conference, RCMP Asst. Commissioner David Teboul, commander of the Federal Police Program in the Pacific Region, stressed that the murder remains “under very active investigation.”

“There are separate and distinct investigations underway into these matters, certainly not limited to the involvement of those arrested today, and these efforts include investigating connections to the government of India,” Teboul said.

Once the charges were filed, authorities remained silent about how their months-long investigation led them to the three suspects.

“With an unequivocal commitment to the administration of justice and with reverence to the upcoming judicial process on this matter, we cannot comment on the nature of the evidence collected by the police, nor can we speak about the motive behind the murder,” he said. Teboul.

Friday’s charges allege the conspiracy unfolded in both Surrey and Edmonton between May 1, 2023, and the day of Nijjar’s murder.

Authorities could not comment on the immigration status of the three arrested men, but said they arrived in Canada within the last five years and are not permanent residents.

“Others may have played a role”

Superintendent Mandeep Mooker, officer in charge of British Columbia’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said police are also “aware that others may have played a role” in the murder.

“We remain dedicated to finding and arresting each of these individuals,” Mooker added.

Police acknowledged the update would leave many unanswered questions in Surrey’s Sikh community, which was rocked by what some quickly feared was a political assassination.

A vocal supporter of the Khalistan movement, which advocates for a separate Sikh homeland in the Indian province of Punjab, Nijjar was a wanted man in India, where authorities labeled him a terrorist in 2020.

At the time of his death, he was organizing an unofficial referendum on Khalistan among the Sikh diaspora in British Columbia with the organization Sikhs For Justice.

He was shot dead by masked gunmen in front of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, where he served as president.

Diplomatic crisis with India

The case sparked a diplomatic crisis between Canada and India after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed that intelligence services were investigating information about a possible link with the Indian government.

Canada’s Public Safety Minister declined to comment further on the allegations on Friday, telling reporters in Parliament that such issues are best addressed by police.

“I have full confidence in the security apparatus of the government of Canada and in the work of the RCMP and the work being done by the (Canadian) Security Intelligence Service,” said Minister Dominic Leblanc.

“I think the police operation taking place today confirms that the RCMP takes these matters very seriously.”

The Conservative Party denounces “foreign interference”

In November, U.S. authorities unsealed an indictment accusing an Indian diplomat of conspiring to order the murder of a Sikh separatist in that country, pointing to a potentially broader campaign of assassinations against Sikhs outside the country. India.

The plot was foiled, but U.S. authorities said their investigation found evidence of plans to assassinate Canadians, including Nijjar.

The Conservative Party of Canada, in a statement following Friday’s arrests, accused the Trudeau government and called Nijjar’s murder an “unacceptable” case of “foreign interference” in Canada.

“We wish that the government would be able to thwart this plot and prevent this murder from occurring in the first place, as was the case in the United States,” the statement said.

“Disbelief and anger”

Assistant. Commissioner Brian Edwards, officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP detachment, praised the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara executive for their help – and patience – during the murder investigation, even while going through “intense grief and pain.”

“Investigations in Canada are complex,” Edwards said. “They are very, very onerous and take time. As such, the support of those people and the community at large was essential to get us to where we are today.”

BC Premier David Eby expressed gratitude to the investigators working on the case and said the province will support the legal process as the criminal case gets underway.

“There is disbelief and anger in the community, in addition to the terrible loss felt by Mr. Nijjar’s family and loved ones,” Eby said in a statement. “I hope that today’s announcement of charges against three people is an important step toward justice for his family and accountability to the entire community.”

With files from Rachel Aiello, senior digital parliamentary reporter for CTV News and The Canadian Press

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