Canada to extradite accused Paris bomber to France

13th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

Canada's top court refused Thursday to hear a university professor's final plea to halt his extradition to France, effectively ensuring he will face trial for the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue.

The decision brings to an end 60-year-old Hassan Diab's six-year legal battle to avoid what he said would be an unfair prosecution in France for a crime he insists he did not commit.

The Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision in a one-line statement, saying his appeal of a lower court ruling and the government's extradition order was "dismissed without costs.

"Diab, who was taken into custody Wednesday pending the announcement, could now be flown to Paris at any time in the next 45 days.

There he will be questioned by an investigating judge before criminal proceedings can begin.

If convicted, Diab, a sociologist, could face life in prison.

The 1980 bombing on the narrow Copernic Street was the first fatal attack against the French Jewish community since the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Explosives packed in the saddlebags of a parked motorcycle were detonated as worshippers were starting to exit the synagogue.

The blast killed three Frenchmen and a young Israeli woman.

Forty were injured.

Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc, speaking for the victims' families, expressed "relief" that the case may now finally go to trial after 34 years.

Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions president Roger Cukierman told AFP the evidence was so compelling that "it would have been beyond understanding" if Canada had refused France's extradition request.

- 'Disappointing day' -Outside Canada's Supreme Court on Thursday Diab's supporters held a rally, chanting: "Shame! Shame!" Dozens of people, including American activist Noam Chomsky and former Canadian solicitor general Warren Allmand, have pressed Ottawa to stop the extradition.

Diab's lawyer Donald Bayne maintained that the evidence "would never meet Canadian constitutional standards for a criminal trial.

""So it's a profoundly disappointing day in this legal journey," he said.

Diab was arrested at his home in an Ottawa suburb in November 2008 at the request of French authorities who alleged he was a member of the Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine.

The extremist group pioneered armed jetliner hijackings in the 1960s and was believed to be behind a string of deadly attacks in Europe, including the Paris bombing.

Canada's justice minister signed an order in April 2012 to send Diab to France after a Canadian court approved his extradition, despite its concerns that the French case was "weak.

"Diab, a Canadian of Lebanese descent, has said he has "absolutely no connection whatsoever to the terrible 1980 attack," while his legal team argued he should not be extradited because a conviction in Canada would be unlikely.

- Torture claim -Diab's lawyers have mainly sought to discredit what they called "fatally flawed" handwriting analysis of a Paris hotel slip in evidence -- five words printed in simplistic block letters.

France says the hotel registration card was signed under a false identity -- a Cypriot named Alexander Panadriyu -- which was also presented to purchase the motorcycle used in the bombing.

Diab's lawyers also challenged fingerprint evidence saying it does not match Diab's, and noted that the person who signed the Paris hotel slip was described by witnesses as middle-aged -- Diab would have been 26 at the time.

Moreover, they say his passport shows Diab was not in France in 1980.

He claims he was studying in Beirut then.

The lawyers also sought to prove that then-justice minister Rob Nicholson reached beyond his jurisdiction in ordering Diab's surrender, and that some of the evidence in the case came from unsourced intelligence from the French government, raising questions about its reliability.

The intelligence used to gather evidence has a "plausible connection" to torture, they contended.

But an appeals court said it was satisfied the minister had properly tested the allegations of torture, citing him as saying that Diab "is not being surrendered to a country that condones the use of torture-derived evidence.

"As for whether Canada should extradite one of its citizens to face a foreign prosecution, the appeals court noted that Diab was not a Canadian national at the time of the bombing and so Canada is treaty-bound to extradite him.

Diab only became a Canadian citizen in 2006, and is now the father of a nearly two-year-old girl with his common-law wife.

© 2014 AFP

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