As you recall, Dr. Hassan Diab returned to Canada in January 2018 after enduring more than three years without charge in a French prison, mostly in solitary confinement. Despite evidence of Hassan’s innocence, the French prosecutor filed an appeal with the Court of Appeal in France asking that Hassan be put on trial.
The French Court of Appeal postponed its decision regarding whether to refer Hassan’s case to trial in France or dismiss the case. Rather, the Court of Appeal ordered a review of the French handwriting analysis report (“Bisotti’s report”) which was subjected to strong criticism by leading handwriting analysis experts during Hassan’s extradition hearing in Canada a decade ago. Notwithstanding these criticisms, Hassan was extradited to France in 2014, almost entirely on the basis of the deeply flawed Bisotti’s report.
Following the review ordered by the French Court of Appeal, two new French handwriting analysis experts delivered a scathing critique and rebuke of Bisotti’s report that mirror the critique by the defence during the extradition hearing. The French Court of Appeal is expected to render a decision regarding Dr. Diab’s case on January 27, 2021.
Essentially, there are two options for the Court of Appeal judge: uphold the prosecutor’s appeal and send Hassan to trial for a crime he did not commit, or deny the appeal and confirm Hassan’s innocence. Either way, the fundamental miscarriage of justice and the radically flawed extradition process remain ongoing issues to be addressed.
Dr. Hassan Diab is a Canadian citizen and sociology professor who lives in Ottawa. He was extradited from Canada to France in November 2014 in connection with a 1980 bombing outside a synagogue in Paris that tragically killed four people. The Canadian extradition judge described the case against Diab as “weak” and stated that “the prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial, seem unlikely”. However, given the low threshold of evidence in Canada’s Extradition Act, the judge felt compelled to order Diab’s extradition.
Diab spent more than three years in prison in France while the decades-long investigation in his case was ongoing. The French investigating judges found that there is consistent evidence that Diab was not in Paris at the time of the 1980 bombing. They underlined the numerous contradictions and misstatements contained in the intelligence which cast serious doubts about its reliability, as well as the fact that Dr. Diab’s fingerprints, palm prints and physical description do not match those of the suspect identified in 1980.
The investigating judges dismissed the case and ordered that Dr. Diab be released. Shortly thereafter, in January 2018, Diab returned to his home and family in Canada. In June 2018, PM Justin Trudeau stated, “I think, for Hassan Diab, we have to recognize first of all that what happened to him never should have happened. This is something that obviously was an extremely difficult situation to go through for himself and for his family”.
Despite conceding that there is credible evidence excluding Diab, the French prosecutor appealed the dismissal decision by the investigating judges and filed an appeal with the Court of Appeal in France asking that Hassan Diab be put on trial. The French Court was expected to render a decision in October 2018; however, the Court postponed the decision and ordered a review of the French handwriting analysis (“Bisotti’s report”). The review conducted by two French handwriting analysis experts was extremely critical of Bisotti’s observations, methodology, and conclusions.
Hassan Diab has spent over 12 years of his life either imprisoned or living under restrictive bail conditions, including more than three years in near solitary confinement in a French prison. Diab has always maintained his innocence and strongly condemned the 1980 crime. He has 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”.
Numerous human rights groups, civil society organizations, and labour unions – including Amnesty International Canada, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), among others – have supported Dr. Diab in his quest for justice.