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Hassan Diab arrives at an Ottawa courthouse on June 6, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

An Ottawa sociology professor should be extradited to France to face charges in a decades-old terror bombing, a judge ruled Monday.

The decision by Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger means Hassan Diab is a step closer to being tried for murder.

As he was whisked away into custody, Mr. Diab waved to applauding supporters who packed an Ottawa courtroom.

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Justice Minister Rob Nicholson will now decide whether to surrender him to France.

French authorities say Diab, 57, was involved in the October 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people and injured dozens of others. It was the final day of a Jewish festival known as Simchas Torah.

"This was an anti-Semitic terrorist act," Judge Maranger wrote in the reasons.

"The events of that day have become infamous in the minds of the people of France; it is a nation that clearly wants closure. The Jewish community takes particular interest in seeing that the perpetrators of this heinous act are brought to justice."

The RCMP arrested Mr. Diab, a Canadian of Lebanese descent, in November 2008 in response to a request by France. He had worked as a contract instructor at two Ottawa universities.

Mr. Diab denies any role in the deadly attack and quickly announced plans Monday to appeal.

"I am innocent of the charges against me," he said in a statement. "I will take every legal opportunity to clear my name and I look forward to the day in which I can reclaim my life.

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"My unwavering moral principle throughout my life has been promoting equality and respect for all. My family, friends, colleagues and students can easily attest to this."

In the next phase of the extradition process, Mr. Diab will make written submissions to Mr. Nicholson as to why he should not be sent to France.

"The minister will take whatever time he needs to personally determine whether or not there should be surrender," said federal lawyer Claude LeFrancois.

Should Mr. Nicholson agree with the judge's ruling, Mr. Diab could challenge both the ministerial and judicial decisions in the Ontario Court of Appeal. As a result, Mr. Diab is likely to remain in Canada for several more months and quite possibly longer.

During the drawn-out and hotly contested case, Judge Maranger examined elements of France's request including eyewitness descriptions, composite sketches and handwriting on a hotel registration card allegedly penned by Mr. Diab – evidence his lawyers have vigorously disputed.

In his ruling, the judge concluded France had presented "a weak case" that makes the prospect of conviction "in the context of a fair trial, seem unlikely." But he said Mr. Diab must be sent to France under the terms of Canada's extradition law.

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"Canada signed an extradition treaty with the Republic of France, who suspect that Mr. Diab is responsible for a heinous crime," Judge Maranger wrote. "It is presupposed, based on our treaty with France, that they will conduct a fair trial, and that justice will be done."

Donald Bayne, Mr. Diab's lawyer, expressed concerns Monday that France is relying on secret intelligence in its case, leaving his client "utterly unable" to defend himself should he stand trial there.

Mr. Bayne plans to argue in coming days that Mr. Diab should remain free under strict bail conditions. Meantime, he is being held at an Ottawa jail.



The Canadian Press

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