Trial for two accused Surrey rapists to be expedited

Sital Bhatti and Mohammed Ukhttar are charged in a historic case for which another man was wrongly convicted and went to prison.

Two men charged in a rape for which another man was wrongly convicted, served jail time and was deported will be tried in B.C. Supreme Court next year.

Sital Singh Bhatti and Mohammed Zaaid Ukhttar are charged with sexual assault in connection to the July 2004 attack of a 19-year-old woman in a Surrey basement suite.

The pair was charged in 2013 after Surrey RCMP revealed that another man, Gurdev Singh Dhillon, had been wrongly convicted in the case years earlier.

In 2005, Dhillon was found guilty of sexually assaulting the teen. He was sentenced to four years in prison and subsequently deported to India. Appeals of both his conviction and sentence were dismissed in 2006.

In 2011, however, Crown prosecutors discovered DNA evidence seized from the victim that had not been disclosed by police. The DNA profile did not match Dhillon’s.

In 2013, the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch concluded there had been a miscarriage of justice and late last year, the charges against Dhillon were officially stayed.

This week, the criminal justice branch confirmed the trial for Bhatti and Ukhttar will proceed by way of direct indictment, which resulted in a stay of proceedings of their charges in Surrey Provincial Court May 8. The direct indictment means a preliminary hearing – typically held to determine if there’s sufficient evidence to warrant a trial – will be skipped.

A trial is now scheduled to begin in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster in June 2016.

In February, Dhillon sued the federal and provincial governments, the RCMP, Crown and his former defence lawyer, saying he “lost everything” as a result of the wrongful conviction. He alleged he not only lost his freedom while serving jail time, but his wife left him, his daughter became estranged, he lost his job and he was stripped of his permanent Canadian residency.