November 20, 1953|
|Criminal charge||Alleged involvement in the 1980 Paris synagogue bombing|
|Criminal status||Released without conditions by the French investigative judge|
Hassan Diab (Arabic: حسن دياب) (born November 20, 1953) is a former sociology professor at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. In 2008, France requested his extradition for his alleged involvement in the 1980 Paris synagogue bombing. After a lengthy extradition hearing, on June 6, 2011, the Canadian extradition judge described the evidence as “convoluted, very confusing, with conclusions that are suspect” and stated that “the prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial seem unlikely”. However, the judge said that his interpretation of Canada’s extradition law left him no choice but to commit Diab to extradition.
On April 4, 2012, the Minister of Justice, Rob Nicholson, ordered Diab extradited to France. Diab's appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal was rejected and the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the case. On November 14, 2014, Hassan was extradited from Canada to France where he was imprisoned for 3 years and two months while the investigation continued.
Since then four French anti-terrorism judges have uncovered testimony from several individuals stating that Dr. Diab was in Lebanon at the time of the bombing as well as University records which show he wrote and passed exams in Beirut then and couldn't have been in Paris. They have ordered his conditional release under electronic surveillance eight times, only to have their orders challenged by the prosecutor and overturned by an appeal court. On January 12, 2018, French authorities dropped all charges against Hassan Diab, citing lack of evidence. On January 14 Dr. Diab returned to Canada. On January 17, Dr. Diab and his Ottawa support committee held a press release at the offices of Amnesty International Canada.
Early life and education
Diab was born in Lebanon and studied sociology at the American University of Beirut. He received a PhD from Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. He became a Canadian citizen in 1993, and moved to Ottawa in 2006. He holds dual citizenship.
Diab was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on November 13, 2008, at the request of French authorities who want him extradited to stand trial for his alleged role in a 1980 bombing outside a synagogue on Rue Copernic in Paris. He faced charges of murder and attempted murder in connection with the bombing, in which four people were killed and dozens injured by the detonation of about 10 kilograms (22 lb) of explosives hidden in the saddlebags of a parked motorcycle.
Diab denies all charges. His lawyer said the arrest was "a mistaken identification", and that Diab did not enter France in 1980. Friends, colleagues and former professors of Diab expressed shock and bafflement at the news of his arrest. His thesis adviser, Louis Kriesberg, a noted scholar of conflict resolution, said he never knew Diab to be in any way anti-Semitic and called the news "not credible".
Termination of teaching contract
In early July 2009, Diab was hired to teach a summer course in introductory sociology at Carleton University. On July 28, the day after a bail hearing disclosed his employment and subsequent teaching, B'nai Brith Canada released a statement condemning Carleton for employing a suspected terrorist. “We find it deplorable that university officials believe that there is nothing wrong with employing Diab. The safety and security of the community as a whole, and of the Carleton University campus in particular, are of great concern to us." The Toronto-based national office of B'nai Brith issued a statement condemning Carleton's actions, while an Ottawa-based member of the group telephoned the university directly to complain.
The university confirmed to the CBC that Diab was teaching the course. Later that day, university officials cancelled Diab's contract and named a replacement, stating that Diab had been replaced "in the interest of providing students with a stable, productive academic environment that is conducive to learning." "The university did the right thing," B'nai Brith's executive vice-president, Frank Dimant, said of Carleton's about-face in not allowing Diab to teach."
Some Carleton University professors supported Diab, stating that his termination violates the university's contract obligations. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) issued a press release condemning the actions of Carleton's administration.
Based on information from intelligence agencies of Germany obtained from former members of the group, French authorities allege that Diab was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the group blamed for the bombing. Evidence unsealed as part of the extradition case, in April 2009, included two police sketches made some time after the bombing. Samples of Diab's handwriting, while a student at Syracuse University years later, were subjected to handwriting analysis. The sample of Diab's Syracuse handwriting was compared to the writing on a Paris hotel registration card filled out under the alias Alexandre Panadriyu. One French expert stated that the handwriting was definitely Diab's, though it appeared efforts had been made to change it. Another French expert said Diab could have written the registration card.
In October 2009, Diab’s lawyer submitted to the Canadian court several reports produced by experts in Canada, the United States, France and the United Kingdom. The lawyer informed the court that intelligence experts were prepared to explain the difference between evidence and intelligence and its “inherent secrecy and non-disclosure”. Moreover, handwriting experts, including a top British expert, characterized the evidence tendered by French authorities as “demonstrably false”. The Crown, on behalf of France, retracted the evidentiary nature of its original handwriting experts and asked the court for more time in order to obtain another opinion. The evidence was withdrawn when Diab's lawyer showed that the comparison handwriting samples used were not written by Diab. [Paragraph 85, https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2011/2011onsc337/2011onsc337.html?searchUrlHash=AAAAAQAQZGlhYiBleHRyYWRpdGlvbgAAAAAB]
The reports were the subject of an evidentiary hearing in December 2009. At the end of the hearing, the judge decided that the defence was permitted to file reports from all of their four handwriting experts, and could call any two of these experts to testify at the extradition hearing. The Crown would be allowed to cross-examine all four of the defence handwriting experts if it so chose. The defence called University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach to testify as an expert on the issue of intelligence as evidence at the extradition hearing; he testified as to the unreliability of using intelligence as evidence on November 24 and 25, 2009, in Ottawa.
An extradition hearing had, temporarily, been scheduled to begin in January 2010. However, on December 18, 2009, the Crown Attorney (representing The Attorney General of Canada) requested an adjournment of the hearing to review the defence evidence. The next possible date for the extradition hearing was to have been June 2010.
The judge hearing the case stated that he wanted to start the flow of evidence soon and suggested that he was becoming weary of delays by the French government in presenting its case. The hearing was scheduled to begin on November 8, 2010.
On May 17, 2010, the hearing scheduled to begin June 14, 2010, was again delayed after France disavowed the evidence of two handwriting experts discredited by the defence. The Crown planned instead to introduce evidence from a third, new French handwriting expert, who found a "very strong presumption" that Diab was the author of the hotel registration card. Kent Roach, the expert defence witness, accused the French government of "dragging its feet", "cherry picking evidence" and "bootstrapping" by requesting a delay while justice officials in Paris gathered more evidence. Defence counsel called the Crown's new plan "absolutely scandalous". He went on to say, "At the 11th hour and 59th minute they withdraw their entire handwriting case and substitute a new case."
Diab's lawyer also accused French authorities of finding a new handwriting expert in an attempt to save their case after the two they originally used were discredited by four defence handwriting experts, including a former RCMP document examiner. On December 6, 2010, the presiding judge ruled to allow the testimony of three more defence handwriting experts, but said that he would not necessarily give it any weight in his final analysis.
A former RCMP forensic document examiner, Brian Lindblom, was retained by the defence and testified on December 13, 2010, on the handwriting analysis submitted by France's new, and third examiner, Anne Bisotti. Stating that the new report submitted by the Crown was "often confusing and incomprehensible", Lindblom criticized the mandate given to Bisotti, by Magistrate Marc Trévidic. Trévidic instructed that the analysis be done to "'determine if he (Diab) is certainly or may be the writer.' There appears to be no room for an objective consideration of the possibility that the author of the sample material may not be the writer; he is presumed to be the writer." "The mandate is designed not to seek objective evidence," Lindblom testified. Bisotti's handwriting analysis was the third sent to the court after France disavowed two previous analyses when the defence demonstrated their unreliability.
On June 6, 2011, Justice Robert Maranger committed Diab for extradition and stated that "regrettably" he had no jurisdiction to grant bail. Diab was taken into custody pending a bail hearing. Maranger said the evidence against Diab was "weak", but that France had shown a prima facie case and Canada must expect France to give Diab a fair trial. On April 4, 2012, the Minister of Justice, Rob Nicholson, ordered Diab extradited to France to face terror bombing charges. Diab's lawyer was expected to appeal that decision. In May 2014, the Court of Appeal for Ontario confirmed the extradition order, writing that the minister's holding decision was "reasonable" and that he must be sent to face trial in France.
On November 13, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear Diab's appeal. Diab was extradited to France on November 14, 2014, to face investigation by the French legal authorities, as the main suspect of the 1980 attack.
Hassan Diab was held in Fleury-Mérogis Prison, a high security correctional centre in southern Paris. No trial was ever scheduled. In December 2014 an article in the Ottawa Citizen stated that: "A French magistrate formally charged Diab the day he arrived in Paris but it is expected to take at least 18 months of investigation before he stands trial, if the French decide to proceed with the case." On May 17, 2016, a French judge released Diab from jail, requiring him to wear a monitoring device, but allowing him to walk alone three hours a day. Prosecutors reportedly filed an appeal to the release order.
Diab was released from the French prison on January 13, 2018 shortly after the charges had been dropped by a French judge. Diab returned to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on January 15, 2018, travelling by way of Iceland, after diplomats were able to secure his immediate return. He had initially been released but ordered to remain in France while the prosecution filed an appeal.
- "Court's refusal to hear appeal brings Diab closer to extradition to France". The Globe and Mail. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
- "Hassan Diab Case: New exculpatory evidence and Amnesty International Intervention". Amnesty International. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
- "Terrorism charges against Ottawa professor dropped in France". CBC. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
- "Ottawa academic Hassan Diab is back home, free for the first time in a decade". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 16 January 2018.
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- Kriesberg, Louis. "Biographical note". University of Syracuse. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
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- "Experts allowed to testify at Diab trial, judge rules". The Ottawa Citizen. December 12, 2009.[permanent dead link]
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- "Diab loses bid to be freed of monitoring bracelet". The Ottawa Citizen. June 18, 2010.
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- "'Elastic' Diab evidence not reliable: Expert". Ottawa Sun. November 24, 2010.
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- "Judge allows defence evidence in Diab extradition case". The Ottawa Citizen. December 6, 2010.
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- "France v. Diab, 2014 ONCA 374 (CanLII)". CanLII. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
- Le suspect de l'attentat de la rue Copernic va être extradé
- Le responsable présumé face à la justice française
- Cobb, Christopher (17 May 2016). "Ottawa terror accused Diab released". Ottawa Sun. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
- Cobb, Christopher (17 January 2018). "Exclusive: 'I feel so wonderful,' Diab discusses reuniting with family, release from French prison". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved 18 January 2018.