A French court has upheld a ruling that Ottawa professor Hassan Diab must stand trial in connection to a 1980 bombing outside a synagogue in Paris.
Three years ago, a lower court dismissed the case because of a lack of evidence. But in January, that was overturned by France’s court of appeal. On Wednesday, the country’s top court rejected Mr. Diab’s appeal of that decision.
Mr. Diab’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, said “the travesty of justice continues despite clear evidence of Hassan’s innocence,” and urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “put an end to this miscarriage of justice.” Mr. Bayne said he is considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) also called on the Prime Minister to intervene. Tim McSorley, the organization’s national co-ordinator, said the decision from the Cour de cassation in France is “utterly shocking and unexplainable.”
The ICLMG is calling on Mr. Trudeau to express in the strongest terms to his French counterparts that the persecution of Mr. Diab must end. Mr. McSorley said his organization is also urging Mr. Trudeau to commit to “no further extradition of Hassan Diab to France.”
The professor was arrested by the RCMP in 2008 at the request of France, which suspected him of being involved in the bombing that killed four people. Mr. Diab, who has denied the accusation, was jailed in Canada for more than four months, then held under house arrest. In June, 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger ordered his extradition, even though the judge said the evidence against him was “weak, convoluted and confusing.” Mr. Diab was extradited to France on Nov. 14, 2014.
He spent three years in pretrial detention, much of it in solitary confinement, before being released in January, 2018, after two judges ordered the dismissal of the terrorism charges against him. Mr. Diab, who is 67, returned to Canada, joining his wife and children.
His supporters have argued that he was in Beirut when the attack took place, and that his fingerprints and physical description did not match those of the suspect in 1980.
David Taylor, a spokesperson for Justice Minister David Lametti, said Canada is aware that Mr. Diab’s appeal has been dismissed.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any potential requests for extradition for Dr. Diab to France,” Mr. Taylor said in a statement, adding, “Canada is a rule of law country where extraditions are guided by the Extradition Act, international treaties and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Rob Currie, a law professor at Dalhousie University, said the case must be seen for what it is: “an appalling miscarriage of justice.”
“The decision of the French high court is perverse and practically incomprehensible; there is no reliable evidence that Diab committed the crime, and in fact there is evidence proving he did not do it,” Mr. Currie wrote in an e-mail. He added that even the “flimsy evidence on which Diab was extradited in 2014 has been debunked, both by defence experts and by the French court itself.”
Mr. Currie said it is possible that France will request that Mr. Diab be extradited back to face trial, “simply to satisfy the powerful lobbying the government faces to show that it is doing something.”
“There is no reason to think that the treatment he would receive would be any less cruel and unfair than the first time, where he sat in solitary confinement for three years, without being formally charged, and continually denied bail.”
The ICLMG made reference to Mr. Trudeau’s comments in 2018 after Mr. Diab returned from France. At the time, the Prime Minister said “what happened to him never should have happened.”
Ketty Nivyabandi, secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada, said it is “shocking” that the ordeal continues to drag on and that her organization is urging the Canadian government to intervene.
“Amnesty International continues to call for justice in the horrific 1980 bombing of the Rue Copernic synagogue in Paris. But relentlessly pursuing Hassan Diab is not the way forward.”
Last year, Mr. Diab filed a lawsuit against the federal government, accusing Ottawa of negligent investigation and malicious prosecution. The statement of claim said the government withheld crucial fingerprint evidence prior to his extradition hearing, which Mr. Diab said affected the outcome of proceedings.
A government-commissioned investigation released in 2019 cleared federal lawyers of any wrongdoing in the extradition case, but Mr. Diab called the probe a “failure” of transparency.
With reports from The Canadian Press.
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