A lawyer for Hassan Diab says a French appeal court’s order that the Ottawa sociology professor stand trial for a decades-old synagogue bombing is the latest misstep in a long odyssey of injustice.
Donald Bayne told a news conference Wednesday the decision delivered in Paris “flies in the face of the existing evidence,” and he suggested French authorities are making Diab a scapegoat.
“A demonstrably innocent man and his family have been enduring this nightmare for 10 years now,” Bayne said.
“He’s going to be dragged through a future of uncertainty while for political reasons this case marches on in France.”
Born in Lebanon, Diab became a Canadian citizen in 1993, working in Ottawa as a university teacher.
The RCMP arrested him in November 2008 in response to a request by France.
French authorities suspected Diab 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.
Following drawn-out proceedings that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, Diab was extradited to France where he spent three years behind bars, including time in solitary confinement.
In January 2018, French judges dismissed the allegations against him and ordered his immediate release.
It allowed Diab, now 67, to return to his wife and young children in Ottawa and await the appeal court decision.
Bayne called the ruling handed down Wednesday “a travesty of justice,” saying the latest analysis of handwriting evidence in the case makes the argument for pursuing Diab even weaker.
Early last year, Diab filed a lawsuit accusing the Canadian government of negligent investigation and malicious prosecution, saying federal officials violated his constitutional guarantees of freedom of movement, liberty and security of the person.
The statement of claim contends the government withheld crucial fingerprint evidence prior to his extradition hearing, which Diab says affected the outcome of proceedings.
An external review of Diab’s extradition case for the Canadian government concluded that federal lawyers who worked on the file “acted in a manner that was ethical and consistent” with law and policy.
Diab has rejected the report as a “whitewash exercise.”
Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association are among the many groups that have called for a public inquiry into the Diab case and a review of Canada’s extradition system.