A Lebanese-born professor living in Ottawa is playing his last legal card in a bid to avoid extradition to France to face allegations that he bombed a Paris synagogue in 1980, killing four people and wounding 40.
Hassan Diab is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to consider his appeal of a decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal that would allow his extradition to France on the bombing charges.
Diab, a dual Lebanese and Canadian citizen, says his case raises a number of important issues of national importance. Turning him over to a jurisdiction that relies on intelligence evidence that cannot be adequately tested violates his Charter protections, he claims.
There is no automatic right to appeal to the Supreme Court. The court has the discretion to accept or reject applications requesting an appeal.
In its reply to Diab’s court filings, federal authorities argue that the case “raises no issue of public importance.”
Diab, 60, is accused by French officials of being part of a 1980 bombing plot by Palestinian terrorists in which a bomb was left in a motorcycle outside the Union Libérale Israélite de France on rue Copernic. The attack took place on the eve of Simchat Torah.
According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s European office, the rue Copernic bombing launched “two years of anti-Semitic terrorism – 79 shootings and bombings of Jewish targets across Western Europe, of which 29 [were] in France. This wave of atrocity ended with a machine-gun spree in the rue des Rosiers, Paris Jewish quarter, in August 1982, leaving nine dead.”
In a letter to Justice Minister Peter Mackay, Shimon Samuels of the Wiesentual Center’s European office called on Canada to extradite Diab “without further delay.”
“The trial of Hassan Diab will grant to many an end to their mourning. It will also set before a new generation the lessons of a dark period in order to confront a new wave of resurgent anti-Semitism and indiscriminate terrorist violence,” he states.
French authorities say Diab is tied to the attack though fingerprint evidence, his passport, his membership in a Palestinian terrorist group, eyewitness evidence, as well as the analysis by a handwriting expert comparing Diab’s writing to handwriting on a hotel registration card filled out by the bomber.
Diab denies the allegations. In a statement on the “Justice for Hassan Diab” website, he said, “I neither participated in nor had any knowledge of this heinous crime. I have always opposed anti-Semitism, discrimination and violence. I am innocent of the accusations against me.”
Nevertheless, in 2011, an extradition judge upheld a French request for Diab’s transfer to their jurisdiction. In May 2014 the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld that decision.
In responding to Diab’s allegation that the intelligence evidence against him cannot properly be evaluated, the federal brief to the Supreme Court stated, “Surrender should only be refused owing to trial fairness concerns if it is demonstrated that the criminal laws or procedures in the requesting state shock the Canadian conscience.”
Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), commended the federal government for responding to France’s extradition request.
“Our hope and expectation is that the Supreme Court of Canada will not grant leave [to appeal], because there are no new issues of law for them to determine here,” Fogel said.
“There is no question of Diab not getting a fair trial in France,” he added. “I can’t imagine a basis in which they’d grant an appeal.”
Whether Diab is convicted is another matter. It will be up to a French court to weigh the evidence and determine whether under French law he should be convicted, he noted.