Accused Paris bomber faces Canada extradition

4th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Canadian court is set to announce Monday its decision on whether or not to allow the extradition of accused Paris synagogue bomber Hassan Diab to France to face prosecution.

The Canadian-Lebanese national was arrested in a suburb of Canada's capital at the request of French authorities in November 2008 for his alleged role in a 1980 Paris bombing that killed three Frenchmen and a young Israeli woman, and injured dozens.

French prosecutors want him extradited to face charges of murder, attempted murder and willful destruction of property.

Speaking through his lawyer at the start of his extradition hearing in November 2010 Diab said the evidence presented against him by French authorities relied on "secret, un-sourced intelligence."

"I am innocent of the charges against me," Diab said in a statement. "I hope this extradition hearing will end the witch-hunt atmosphere I have been living under for the past three years."

But his supporters said Friday they feared Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger will clear the way for his extradition, pointing to the judge's rejection of defense arguments to exclude key handwriting evidence in the case.

"The judge has signaled that he is likely to rule in favor of committal because Canada's extradition law does not allow him to discard the handwriting evidence, even though he described it as 'very problematic,' 'very confusing,' and riddled with 'suspect conclusions,'" they said in a statement.

France claimed that there is a resemblance between samples of Diab's handwriting and five words printed in simplistic block letters on a Paris hotel registration card believed to have been signed by the bomber in 1980.

Three handwriting experts testified that the French analysis was flawed and did not match Diab's mark.

According to both defense and Crown attorneys, only five extradition requests have ever been quashed by Canadian judges in the past.

A final decision, however, rests with Canada's justice minister.

France alleges Diab was a member of a Palestinian extremist group believed to have planted a bomb in a motorcycle saddlebag outside the Copernic Street synagogue in the posh 16th arrondissement of Paris on October 3, 1980.

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. Investigators also say Diab resembles police composites of a suspect sketched at the time.

Diab claims he is the victim of mistaken identity and insists that he was a student in Beirut at the time. He also denied any links to extremist organizations.

The 57-year-old former sociology professor was released on strict bail conditions in 2009 while awaiting the court's decision on his extradition.

If convicted of the bombing, he could face life in prison.

© 2011 AFP

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