For Immediate Release
Fourth French Judge Orders Canadian Citizen Hassan Diab Released on Bail on November 14 Unless Decision Is Overturned.
10 November 2017, Ottawa – This week a fourth French judge ordered the release of Canadian Professor Dr. Hassan Diab on bail from a Paris prison where he has been behind bars for three years. This marks the eighth release order of Dr. Diab by four different French judges; but, as on seven prior occasions, the Paris prosecutor immediately filed an appeal. Dr. Diab is set to be released on November 14 unless the French Court of Appeal overturns the release decision.
Dr. Diab’s lawyers in France, William Bourdon, Apolline Cagnat, and Amélie Lefebvre, remarked that “this is an absolutely exceptional situation: Four judges have decided eight times that Dr. Diab should be released. The Paris prosecutor’s obstinacy in this case is not judicial but rather political”.
Dr. Diab was extradited from Canada to France in November 2014, even though the Canadian extradition judge found the evidence presented by French authorities to be “very problematic”, “illogical”, and “suspect”. The judge stated that he felt compelled under Canada’s extradition law to order Dr. Diab’s extradition.
Dr. Diab has been in pre-trial detention in France for three years. The investigative judges in charge of the case found that there is “consistent evidence” that Dr. Diab was not in France at the time of the 1980 Paris bombing outside a Paris synagogue that tragically killed four and injured dozens. Official documents as well as several witnesses confirmed that Dr. Diab was studying and taking his university exams in Lebanon at that time. Four French judges have repeatedly ordered his conditional release. However, the French Court of Appeal quashed all release orders following the prosecutor’s appeals, notably because of the climate in France.
Dr. Diab has always maintained his innocence and strongly condemned the attack. He has a lifelong record of opposition to bigotry and discrimination, as attested by long-time friends and colleagues. He had unequivocally stated that “my life has been turned upside down because of unfounded allegations and suspicions. I am innocent of the accusations against me. I have never engaged in terrorism. I have never participated in any terrorist attacks. I am not an anti-Semite.”
On July 28, 2017, the French investigative judges issued a notice about the end of investigations in Dr. Diab’s case. However, their final decision regarding whether to release Dr. Diab or refer him to trial was delayed because the French prosecutor failed to submit arguments within one month, as stipulated in the French Criminal Procedure Code. To this day, no such submission has been filed.
Recently, Dr. Diab was informed that officials of a foreign state met with the French investigative judges in late September offering their help in getting him charged instead of freed and returned to Canada. This latest development increased serious and legitimate fears that political pressure might interfere with the investigations and jeopardize Dr. Diab’s right to fair and independent justice.
A “note blanche” (white note) with no date, sources, or details was provided to the French investigative judges during the September meeting. The note refers to old, recycled, unfounded, anonymous, and contradictory allegations that were discredited by the French investigative judges and withdrawn from the extradition hearing in Canada because of their extremely problematic nature. The note even misstates the date of the Paris bombing as 1982 and seems to confuse Dr. Diab with someone else. Its palpable unreliability lends credence to the fact that this interference by a foreign state is nothing more than a last-minute, desperate attempt to bring political pressure on the French judicial authorities and to deny Dr. Diab justice in France. Dr. Diab’s lawyers in France noted that “the last-minute, patched up, and self-contradictory aspect of this document clearly reflects its utterly opportunistic purpose”.
Don Bayne, Dr. Diab’s lawyer in Canada, stated that “Dr. Diab has been pleading for help from the Canadian government in his Kafkaesque situation as he remains imprisoned despite evidence of his innocence. Canada has been timid to act to aid this unjustly detained Canadian, while a foreign state is taking direct action seeking to weigh in on a procedure conducted by French judicial authorities. Canada’s voice of protest must be registered at the highest level of our government. The duty of a government is protection of its citizens. Prime Minister Trudeau must demand Dr. Diab’s freedom and return to Canada. Will the Canadian government stand idly by as the injustices in this case compound?”
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