VANCOUVER - The arrest of two Canadian residents in the killing of a British Columbia woman in India 11 years ago is being hailed as a significant development, but a long-time observer of the case says extraditing the new suspects to the country where the crime was committed will likely be a long and difficult process.
The RCMP announced Friday that they had arrested the mother and uncle of Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu, who was 25 when she was killed on June 8, 2000.
Malkit Kaur Sidhu, 63, and Surjit Singh Badesha, 67, both of Maple Ridge, B.C., were taken into custody under the Extradition Act earlier this week.
Jaswinder Sidhu's husband Sukwinder Singh Sidhu, also known as Mithu, was seriously injured in the attack which resulted in his wife's death.
The couple had been secretly married against her family's wishes in April 1999.
Vancouver-based author, filmaker and journalist Fabian Dawson has been tracking the case for years and thinks much of the investigation will be based on evidence collected in India.
"It's going to be one of the most difficult cases to extradite given that the evidence collected in India needs to be tested in the B.C. courts before Canada extradites the mother and the uncle," said Dawson, who co-authored the book "Justice for Jassi" and runs a website by the same name.
"That process, if it goes to full length all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, could take up to 10 years."
The Mounties have declined making any further comment on the case because the matter is now before the courts.
Officials with the federal justice department were also unavailable for comment Saturday.
Dawson has spoken to the victim's husband and said the man is relieved something is happening with the case.
But, he said, Sukwinder Sidhu has expressed doubts over the extradition process.
"He, like I, have my reservations about the extradition being successful," Dawson said.
Sidhu is prepared to testify in the case, whether that happens in India or Canada, he added.
Dawson, who is also the deputy editor at The Province newspaper in Vancouver, said he thinks the developments in the case have taken a long time to come about for several reasons, which includes extradition cases not being a huge priority.
The fact that the crime was committed in India and involves Canadian citizens complicates processes, he said, because the investigation must begin at the lowest levels in India before its passed to more senior officials who can begin any extradition process with Canadian authorities.
According to July 2000 media reports, at least seven people ambushed the couple as they rode a scooter in a village near Sangrur, Punjab, but the husband managed to escape after a severe beating.
Jatinder Aulakh, then a senior superintendent of the Sangrur district police, said at the time the hired men kidnapped Jaswinder Sidhu, took her to a village, told her that her husband was dead and said she should return to Canada.
Aulakh said Sidhu didn't want to believe her husband was dead and wanted to continue the marriage.
He said she was strangled and her body was eventually found in a canal.
"It was a contract killing," Aulakh had said at the time, noting Sidhu's family was opposed to the marriage because her husband's family was poor.
At the time, Sidhu's brother had said his parents were opposed to the marriage because his mother was from the same village as his sister's new husband, and that's considered taboo in Sikh culture.
He had also said the family wasn't aware of the marriage until rumours began to surface in India.
"At first I was upset but then I accepted it," the brother said at the time. "I'm really torn up inside right now."
However, Harbinder Singh Sewak, co-author of "Justice for Jassi," said Saturday that he thought greed and money played a role in the killings, adding that Sidhu's family had been ostracized from the community in Canada and India.
RCMP have said seven individuals have already been convicted in India on charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder in the case.
RCMP Cpl. Annie Linteau said Friday that Mounties and government officials travelled to India several times and "identified a number of new investigative avenues that were instrumental in the extradition process."
The case is one which has drawn the interest of many Canadians over the years and word of this week's arrests caused some to express their feelings on the website dedicated to Sidhu.
"Love is triumphant, and in the end conquers all," said a person named Sam Gurvinder.
"I pray Jassi and Mithu get the justice they deserve," wrote another named Sonia Lidder.
"Falling in love is beautiful and magical. It should not be tainted with blood! RIP Jassi."
— with files from Camille Bains
(The Canadian Press/CKNW)