Accused Paris bomber 'anti-Arab' target

21st March 2009, Comments 0 comments

A Canadian-Lebanese national arrested for his alleged role in a 1980 Paris synagogue bombing is the victim of "anti-Arab" prejudices, a defense witness said Friday.

OTTAWA - Hassan Diab, 55, was arrested in November in an Ottawa suburb at the request of French authorities who want him extradited to stand trial for murder, attempted murder and the destruction of property for his alleged role in the bombing that killed four.

On this third day of the bail hearing, Nour el-Kadri, an activist and instructor at the University of Ottawa where Diab also taught, said the suspect was "targeted" by prosecutors because of "anti-Arab sentiments."

"Many people in the Arab community believe he's being targeted," said Kadri, a member of the Coalition of Arab Canadian Professionals and Community Associations. "We (all) feel we are being targeted and this is one example."

Kadri drew parallels between Diab's case and Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian wrongly detained in 2002 during a stopover in New York and sent to Syria where he was jailed and tortured for over a year.

A Canadian judicial report in September 2006 cleared Arar of terror ties and blasted federal police for wrongly labeling him an "Islamic extremist."

But the prosecution in Diab's case has painted a different picture: that of a man who poses a flight risk, who kept contacts in numerous countries and who maintained a strained relationship with his girlfriend Rania Tfaily.

Tfaily would be asked to serve as a principal guarantor if Diab were paroled, and the suspect admitted under cross examination that he had an affair with another woman prior to his arrest four months ago.

This week's bail hearing is Diab's second shot at freedom after an appeals court quashed a December decision to detain him pending an extradition hearing because Diab, who does not speak French, could not read French prosecution documents entered as evidence at his first hearing.

In October 1980, a bomb planted in a motorcycle saddlebag outside the Copernic Street synagogue in Paris killed three Frenchmen and a young Israeli woman, and injured dozens.

It was the first fatal attack against the French Jewish community since the Nazi occupation of World War II.

French authorities issued a warrant in November 2007 for Diab's arrest, following a lead from German intelligence saying he was involved. But Diab has insisted they made a mistake and has denied links to extremist groups.

Before his arrest, Diab worked as a part-time professor at Canada's Carleton and Ottawa universities.

He faces life in prison for murder, attempted murder and willful destruction of property, if convicted in a French court.

A Canadian bail decision is expected next week.

Philippe Sauvagnargues / AFP / Expatica

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