Lawyers for Hassan Diab, a former Carleton University sociology professor implicated in a notorious 1980 Paris synagogue bombing that killed four people, said they’ll seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada after Ontario’s Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision to extradite him to France for the crime.
Judge Robert Maranger ruled May 15 that he had no other option under Canadian extradition law but to send Diab back to Paris for trial.
Diab, a 60-year-old native of Lebanon, has been accused of being a one-time member of the terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) when the bombing occurred. He has maintained his innocence for the last six years, saying he did not enter France in 1980.
Diab has no criminal record in Canada and has insisted, with his lawyers, that he is a victim of mistaken identity.
In his decision, Maranger agreed that the evidence against Diab did not necessarily meet standards for conviction in a Canadian criminal court, but at an earlier hearing, he said France had enough prima facie evidence to warrant Diab’s return there for trial.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs applauded the decision.
“The fact that the main suspect in this hateful terrorist attack will indeed face the justice system gives hope to the survivors and to the families of the innocent victims,” CIJA said in a statement.
“The upholding of the extradition order does not assume Diab’s culpability. Diab will be able to defend himself before France’s judicial system, which is just as impartial as Canada’s.”
On Oct. 1, 1980, as Simchat Torah began, a bomb containing a large amount of the plastic explosive Semtex detonated outside the Union Libérale Israélite de France synagogue on Rue Copernic in Paris, killing four non-congregants and injuring more than 40.
At the time, then-French prime minister Raymond Barre called it a “heinous crime against Jews.”
Diab, a Canadian citizen since 1993 – with dual citizenship – and an Ottawa resident since 2006, has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Syracuse in New York.
He was first arrested by the RCMP in Ottawa in connection with the bombing in November 2008 at the request of French authorities, based on German intelligence that used handwriting samples suggesting that Diab was a member of the PFLP implicated in the bombing.
Experts, though, have had conflicting opinions over the handwriting evidence.
In July 2009, Carleton University terminated Diab’s teaching contract over the allegations, but professors there say his firing breached the university’s contract with him.
After a series of extradition hearing delays going back to January 2010 over intelligence and evidentiary disputes, Maranger ordered Diab extradited in June 2011. In April 2012, then-justice minister Rob Nicholson ordered the same thing, but the case has continued under appeal under strict $250,000 bail conditions.
Diab has only been able to leave his home for work at the University of Ottawa, for meetings related to his case or for personal appointments. He has also been required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet pending resolution of his extradition case.