In a deeply disappointing and stunning move, the French Court of Appeal quashed – for the eighth time – a release order for Dr. Hassan Diab. Hassan has been in pre-trial detention for three years, despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence.
The French investigative judges in charge of the case found that there is “consistent evidence” that Hassan 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, each time the Paris prosecutor filed an appeal, and the French Court of Appeal overturned the release decision because of the climate in France.
Hassan’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”.
Hassan’s wife, Carleton University professor Rania Tfaily, said, “Even though this was the eighth time Hassan’s release order was overturned, I was really shocked and stunned, not knowing if this was reality, whether we live in an alternate world. It’s like an alternate world where truth, evidence, logic, and rationality don’t count.”
Numerous high-profile Canadians have signed an Open Letter urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use the full force of his office to bring Hassan home. These individuals include lawyer and former politician Bob Rae; Members of Parliament Don Davies, Elizabeth May, and Kennedy Stewart; politician and broadcaster Stephen Lewis; filmmakers Atom Egoyan, Avi Lewis, and Sarah Polley; authors Naomi Klein, Yann Martel, Monia Mazigh, and Nino Ricci.
Hassan 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.
Hassan 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 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.”
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.
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?”
Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: