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‘Jassi and her mother loved each other’

Jassi Sidhu with her husband Mithu in an undated photo. - Contributed
Jassi Sidhu with her husband Mithu in an undated photo.
— image credit: Contributed

There is not enough evidence to ship the mother of a Maple Ridge woman murdered in an alleged “honour killing” to face trial in India, her lawyer stressed Wednesday in Vancouver Supreme Court.

Malkit Kaur Sidhu’s daughter Jassi was killed in June 2000 in the Indian state of Punjab after she married rickshaw driver Sukhwinder ‘Mithu’ Sidhu against the wishes of her Canadian family.

Sidhu, 64, and her brother, Surjit Singh Badesha, 68, are fighting extradition to India, where they’ve been charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

During final arguments, however, Sidhu’s lawyer David Crossin told Justice Gregory Fitch the evidence was not sufficient to show she “aided, abetted or counselled Jassi’s murder.”

“There is no evidence that Mrs. Sidhu hired anyone …” said Crossin.

“There is evidence of Mrs. Sidhu expressing frustration and disappointment about Jassi’s marriage. A reasonable jury, properly instructed, would not find Mrs. Sidhu guilty.”

In fact, noted Crossin, the weight of the evidence shows that “Jassi and her mother loved each other.”

The daughter of wealthy blueberry farmers, Jassi Sidhu met her husband Mithu on a family trip to India and carried on a clandestine long-distance romance with him until they were secretly married in 1999.

But when Jassi’s family learned about the marriage, they insisted she divorce Mithu. Indian authorities allege Jassi’s mother also travelled to India in late 1999 or early 2000 and threatened Mithu’s mother and his friends.

During the extradition hearing, friends and co-workers of Jassi testified that she lived in fear of her family, was followed by her uncle and cousin for months and kept under constant watch even while she studied at a beauty school.

Jassi’s family froze her bank accounts after they learned about her marriage.

Jassi told Deb Devos, a teacher at her beauty school, her family wanted her to marry a much older and wealthy man.

Jassi managed to escape the grip of her family and returned to India in May 2000, with the intention of bringing her husband to Canada.

While in India however, the 25-year-old and her husband were attacked by a gang of men. Jassi’s body was found a day later in a ditch, her throat slit. Her husband survived the attack.

Sidhu and Badesha are accused of orchestrating Jassi’s murder and the attempted murder of her husband from the family’s Maple Ridge home.

Sidhu and Badesha appeared via video during four days of final arguments this week. The pair have been in custody since January 2012.

The bulk of the Crown’s case was based on evidence Indian prosecutors are expected to present at trial, but was bolstered by testimony from Jassi’s co-workers and friends.

In 2005, seven men were convicted on murder charges in India, but three had their convictions overturned on appeal.

Jim Longridge was the principal of Pitt Meadows secondary when Jassi graduated and lobbied for years to get police to pursue a murder investigation.

He attended portions of the extradition hearing, which began last May.

“[The mother and uncle’s] involvement is pretty clear to me. Let’s hope the judge feels the same way,” said Longridge.

“You can only be hopeful. Unfortunately, there has been a 14-year delay. My fingers are crossed. I’m looking forward to hearing the ruling. I want to be there, but I won’t be cheering because nothing is going to bring her back.”

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