Jaspal Atwal lawyer says media has ‘obsession’ with client, criticizes reporter for asking questions
The lawyer for a convicted failed assassin invited to a reception with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the media has an “obsession” with his client and criticized a reporter for defying his self-imposed order not to ask Jaspal Atwal questions during a press conference.
Shortly before a press conference held at his Vancouver office, lawyer Rishi Gill warned reporters in attendance several times not to direct any questions to Atwal, who wanted only to read a prepared statement and not answer queries from reporters.
Atwal then read a roughly six-page statement in which he said he has taken responsibility for the attempted murder of a visiting Indian politician in 1986. He said he was “shocked and devastated” over the scrutiny that erupted when it was reported he had secured an invitation to a reception held by the Canadian High Commissioner to India to mark the end of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s week-long visit to the country last month.
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“I’m sorry for the embarrassment this matter has caused,” Atwal read out. “However, I want to again stress this terrible event that happened in the past is something I live with every day and take complete responsibility for.”
Gill then took questions from reporters on Atwal’s behalf and said that Atwal had done nothing wrong by asking Liberal MP Randeep Sarai if he could be put on the invite list to attend the reception with the prime minister.
Gill said Atwal did not know who had taken a photo of his client with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau at a reception several nights earlier and posted it online.
“That’s a really interesting question,” Gill said. “We don’t know. Certainly, somebody was trying to embarrass somebody.”
As well, Gill suggested it is unfair for anyone to suggest Atwal secured the dinner invitation improperly, and for anyone to suggest that Atwal has done anything wrong since being released from prison for attempted murder in the early 1990s. Posing questions about Atwal’s behavior, Gill said, are akin to asking someone, “Can you tell me when you stopped snorting cocaine?”
At the end of the press conference, Global News reporter Jordan Armstrong asked directly why Atwal would not answer any questions and Gill immediately lashed out, accusing Armstrong of “unethical” behaviour and “fraud.”
Trudeau’s visit to India last month was intended to be about promoting business ties between Canada and India, but instead became derailed by repeated criticisms that he and his family were going too far in their consistent wearing of Indian traditional clothing, spending too much time at tourist stops, and that the Canadian government was too soft on Sikh extremism.
Several times, Trudeau was forced to defend the government’s stance on supporting a “united India” while stressing that Canadians have a right to freedom of speech and can hold any number of views.
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About mid-way through the trip, photos emerged of Atwal posing with Gregoire Trudeau at a reception at the same time it was reported that Atwal was on the invite list for the upcoming reception.
The Prime Minister’s Office quickly yanked back the invitation but the opposition argued that security should have flagged Atwal’s name earlier.
A government source later insinuated to several media outlets, including Global News, that factions in India may have removed Atwal from a travel blacklist to embarrass Trudeau. No evidence to support that suggestion has been presented.
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