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Three charged in connection with murder of Sikh separatist leader in Canada

Three suspects have been charged by Canadian police in the killing of a Sikh separatist leader in Vancouver last June, in an incident that sparked a diplomatic row between Ottawa and New Delhi.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, was shot dead outside a temple by masked gunmen in Surrey, outside Vancouver, on June 18, 2023.

David Teboul, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said police could not comment on the nature of the evidence or motive.

“This matter is under full investigation,” Teboul said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led to a diplomatic feud with India when he said in September that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the killing. India angrily denied his involvement.

The three suspects – Indian nationals Kamalpreet Singh, Karan Brar and Karampreet Singh – were arrested in Edmonton, Alberta, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

Chief Inspector Mandeep Mooker said: “This investigation does not end here. We are aware that others may have played a role in this murder and we remain committed to finding and arresting each of these individuals.”

Mr. Nijjar, an Indian-born citizen of Canadawas a leader in what remains of it the Khalistan movement – a once powerful group that called for the creation of an independent Sikh homeland.

He was organizing an unofficial referendum for an independent Sikh nation in India at the time of his death and had denied allegations of links to terrorism.

The Khalistan movement has lost much of its power but is still supported by some in the state of Punjab in northwestern India and in the Sikh diaspora abroad.

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A violent, decade-long Sikh insurgency shook northern India in the 1970s and 1980s, eventually crushed by a government crackdown that left thousands of people dead, including prominent Sikh leaders.

In June 1984, Indian troops stormed the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine in Amritsar, where separatists had taken refuge.

In more recent years, the Indian government has repeatedly warned that Sikh separatists were attempting a comeback.

Read more: What is the Khalistan Movement?

Mr. Trudeau led to a line that saw diplomats expelled by both India and Canada Claiming that there were “credible allegations”, the Narendra Modi government was behind Mr Nijjar’s death.

The Indian government said it “completely rejected” Trudeau’s allegations, saying: “We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law.”

The dispute derailed trade negotiations between the two countries and saw Canada is withdrawing 41 of the 62 diplomats it had in India.