French appeal court orders new review of evidence in Hassan Diab case

By The Canadian Press
October 26, 2018 - 11:00am

OTTAWA — The decade-long ordeal of Ottawa academic Hassan Diab, suspected by French authorities of being involved in a deadly bombing in Paris, showed no signs of ending on Friday after an appeal court ordered a fresh review of evidence in the case.

The French Court of Appeal's decision sparked immediate rebukes from Diab, his lawyer and human-rights groups, as well as fresh calls for Ottawa to launch a public inquiry into Diab's case and to review the Extradition Act to ensure other Canadians aren't caught in the same situation.

"It's long overdue for the Canadian government to seriously reform Canada's extradition law," Diab said during a news conference on Parliament Hill.

"The law as it stands is an affront to basic rights, due process and justice and it puts all Canadians at risk of potential, wrongful extradition."

French authorities have said they suspect Diab, a Canadian of Lebanese descent, was involved in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people and injured dozens of others — an accusation he has always denied.

The RCMP arrested Diab in November 2008 in response to a request by France. In June 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger committed Diab for extradition despite acknowledging the case against him was weak.

The following year, then-justice minister Rob Nicholson signed an extradition order surrendering Diab to France. In November 2014, Diab was sent to France, where he was held in solitary confinement for up to 22 hours a day.

He spent three years in a French jail, only to be suddenly released earlier this year. In January, French judges dismissed the allegations against Diab and ordered his immediate release.

Diab is back in Canada with his wife and children. However, French prosecuting authorities appealed his release. While a decision on the appeal was expected on Friday, Diab's lawyer, Donald Bayne, said the appeal court instead ordered the appointment of a new investigating judge.

It also called for a new analysis of handwriting on a hotel registration card that was allegedly penned by Diab and put off any ruling until next year.

Diab's supporters have long argued he was in Beirut — not Paris — when the attack took place and that his fingerprints, palm prints, physical description and age did not match those of the suspect identified in 1980.

Bayne questioned the appeals court's decision during the news conference with Diab and Amnesty International Canada secretary general Alex Neve, saying: "This is bizarre and it speaks to something fishy going on behind the scenes — something political about this case."

The sociology professor and his supporters have been urging the federal government to hold a full public inquiry into the case and to reform the Extradition Act to ensure individual rights are respected.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has asked for an independent review of the extradition but Bayne said its terms of reference are far too narrow and that his client won't participate in a "sham" review behind closed doors.

"What is needed ... is a public inquiry with full powers to examine all actions and decisions of Canadian officials in relation to Hassan Diab's extradition from Canada," said Neve.

"And also with a clear mandate and explicit instructions to consider the Extradition Act itself and the reforms that are needed to guard against an injustice of this nature ever happening again."

— with files from Jim Bronskill

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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