(AFP) — Supporters of a Lebanese-Canadian academic who is the only known suspect in a 1980 Paris bombing urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday not to allow him to be extradited a second time, as France’s top court weighs in on the case.
Hassan Diab, 67, was extradited to France in 2014, but then released in 2018 after French magistrates ruled evidence against him was “not convincing enough” to hold him.
He spent a total of nine years either in jail or under strict bail conditions in the two countries, awaiting trial. Diab has always denied involvement in the bombing.
France’s Court of Cassation has announced it would give its ruling next week on the case’s dismissal, which a Paris appeals court overturned in January, ordering him to stand trial.
Diab’s Canadian lawyer Don Bayne called the French proceedings a “Kafkaesque” and “unjust prosecution of an innocent man,” recalling that Trudeau himself has said Diab should never have been extradited to France in the first place.
“We call on the Canadian government to honour the prime minister’s words, that whatever the French decide next Wednesday he assure Dr. Diab and all Canadians that Canada will not be party to any further injustice, any further wrongful extraditions of Dr. Diab,” he told a news conference.
His comments were echoed by Amnesty International and a coalition of Canadian civil liberties organizations, whose head Tim McSorley called on Ottawa to “state in the strongest possible terms to its French counterparts that the pursuit of Hassan Diab must end.”
“We’re also calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to commit to no future extradition of Hassan Diab to France,” he said.
A former professor of sociology at the University of Ottawa, Diab was accused of planting explosives inside the saddle bag of a motorbike parked outside a packed synagogue close to the Champs-Elysees, where hundreds of people had gathered for Sabbath prayers.
The 1980 bombing on the narrow Copernic Street was the first fatal attack against the French Jewish community since the Nazi occupation in World War II. It left four dead and 46 injured.
Trudeau had welcomed France’s release of Diab in 2018, telling reporters in June of that year: “I think for Hassan Diab we have to recognize first of all that what happened to him never should have happened.”
He ordered a review of Canada’s extradition law to “make sure that it never happens again,” but a 2019 report found no wrongdoing by government lawyers.
In March Trudeau said his government has continued communicating with French officials about the case.
“It has been a priority for us to make sure that we’re standing up for our citizens all around the world, with countries that are challenging, but also with our allies,” he said. “And those conversations will continue.”