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Canadian academic Hassan Diab will be tried in France next year for terrorism

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On January 27, the French Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for the 67-year-old Canadian academic who, according to French police, took part in the bombing on rue Copernic that left four dead and around 40 injured in front of a synagogue in 1980.

Hassan Diab was arrested in 2008 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), placed under strict conditions before being released on bail, and then extradited to France in 2014, where he spent more than three years in prison waiting a trial.

He was unexpectedly released in January 2018 after two French judges ruled there was not enough evidence against him to hold a trial. Hassan Diab was never formally charged in this case.

He was then able to return to Canada where he resumed his life in Ottawa with his wife and children.

Political pressures

The announcement of his release had raised an outcry in France where about twenty groups, some representing victims of terrorism or pro-Israeli organizations, had protested at such an outcome. French prosecutors have nonetheless appealed his release after the last piece of physical evidence linking Diab to the attack was discredited by French forensic experts.

In addition, French investigators have established that Hassan Diab was not in Paris on the day of the attack, but that he was in Lebanon to take university exams there.

Despite this problem of direct evidence and presence at the scene of the crime, the French Court of Appeal ordered the holding of a trial against Hassan Diab on January 27, 2021. Trial whose date has been set for April 3, 2023.

For Hassan Diab’s Canadian lawyer, Mr. Don Bayne, the pressure exerted by these groups played a role in the decision to send Diab to trial.

Travesty of justice continues despite clear evidence of Hassan’s innocence, he said last year.

French authorities have not yet asked Ottawa to extradite Mr. Diab to France to stand trial in person. Hassan Diab’s lawyers have said he could be tried in absentia.

Hassan Diab’s lawyer in France, Me Amélie Lefebvre, for her part refused to comment on the latest developments in this legal saga, believing thatit’s way too early to talk about it.

Lawsuit at all costs

For Hassan Diab’s defenders, holding a trial against him at all costs despite the weakness of the case is a travesty of justice. The group that campaigns in Canada for the defense of Mr. Diab must ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday to publicly commit to refusing a second extradition request from French justice in this case.

This shows how political pressure trumps justice. We call on Prime Minister Trudeau to put an end to this miscarriage of justice. »

A quote from Me Don Bayne, lawyer for Hassan Diab in Canada

In February 2020, Hassan Diab filed a petition in the Ontario Superior Court seeking $70 million in compensation from the Canadian government. Hassan Diab believes that a piece of evidence that would have immediately cleared him in the eyes of French justice has been retained by the Canadian authorities.

According to the motion, Canadian authorities had fingerprints that could have been used to prove Mr. Diab’s innocence. However, this element would not have been given to Mr. Diab’s lawyers or to the Canadian judge who allowed the extradition to France.

During Mr. Diab’s extradition to France in 2014, Canadian justice relied on a handwriting analysis establishing a link between Mr. Diab’s handwriting and that of the alleged bomber. Canadian government lawyers acting on behalf of France had called this evidence smoking gun (smoking gun) at the extradition hearing.

But, in 2009, Mr. Diab’s legal team produced reports from four international handwriting experts. These experts questioned the methods and conclusions of the French experts. They also proved that some of the handwriting samples used by French analysts did not even belong to Hassan Diab, but to his ex-wife.

French investigating judges dismissed the handwritten evidence as unreliable when they ordered Diab’s release in January 2018.

With information from David Cochrane of CBC News

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