PM urged to act for jailed Ot­tawa pro­fes­sor in France

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - NEWS - MICHELLE ZILIO

Sup­port­ers of Hassan Diab, an Ot­tawa pro­fes­sor jailed in France for three years, are urg­ing Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau to in­ter­vene in his case af­ter French au­thor­i­ties blocked his re­lease for the eighth time on Tues­day.

Tues­day marked the third an­niver­sary of Mr. Diab’s ex­tra­di­tion to France, where he is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by au­thor­i­ties in connection with a 1980 bomb­ing of a Paris syn­a­gogue. Nu­mer­ous court rul­ings have cast doubt on the ev­i­dence against him and, though no trial is sched­uled, Mr. Diab con­tin­ues to lan­guish in soli­tary con­fine­ment in a Paris prison.

Speak­ing to The Globe and Mail on Tues­day, Mr. Diab’s wife called on Mr. Trudeau to de­mand French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron re­lease her hus­band so he can re­turn home to his two chil­dren, ages 5 and 21⁄2.

“He’s all alone by him­self in his cell. I hope the Prime Min­is­ter reads this and finds it in his heart to pick up the phone and call Pres­i­dent Macron and say that we don’t al­low any Cana­dian cit­i­zens to be treated like this,” said Ra­nia Tfaily, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa’s so­ci­ol­ogy de­part­ment.

In a joint let­ter to Mr. Trudeau, a num­ber of Mr. Diab’s prom­i­nent sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer Lib­eral MP Bob Rae and au­thor Naomi Klein, asked the Prime Min­is­ter to “rem­edy this mis­car­riage of jus­tice and bring Hassan back to his home in Canada.”

“Your gov­ern­ment has the power to ul­ti­mately mit­i­gate and bring an end to the harm and suf­fer­ing that an in­no­cent Cana­dian and his fam­ily con­tinue to ex­pe­ri­ence on a daily ba­sis,” the let­ter read.

Global Af­fairs Canada spokesman Philip Han­nan said Cana­dian of­fi­cials were present at Mr. Diab’s Nov. 10 hear­ing in Paris, and that For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land and par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary Omar Al­ghabra are fol­low­ing his case. Ms. Free­land most re­cently met with Ms. Tfaily on Nov. 2, where they dis­cussed the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts with her hus­band’s case.

“Min­is­ter Free­land has had dis­cus­sions about Mr. Diab’s case with her French coun­ter­parts and Cana­dian of­fi­cials have also en­gaged reg­u­larly with French of­fi­cials on this case,” Mr. Han­nan said in an e-mail.

The RCMP ar­rested Mr. Diab in Novem­ber of 2008 at the re­quest of French au­thor­i­ties, who sus­pect he was in­volved in the Oc­to­ber, 1980, bomb­ing of a Paris syn­a­gogue that killed four peo­ple and in­jured dozens of oth­ers. The 63-year-old has al­ways de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Af­ter his ar­rest, Mr. Diab was jailed for 41⁄2 months and then re­leased un­der house ar­rest. In June, 2011, On­tario Su­pe­rior Court Jus­tice Robert Maranger or­dered Mr. Diab’s ex­tra­di­tion de­spite say­ing that the ev­i­dence against him was “weak, con­vo­luted and con­fus­ing.” Mr. Diab was re­moved from Canada in Novem­ber of 2014 af­ter the Supreme Court de­clined to hear his ap­peal of the ex­tra­di­tion or­der.

Mr. Diab has been in pre­trial de­ten­tion in Paris ever since, dur­ing which time four French judges have or­dered his re­lease eight times – most re­cently on Nov. 6. The de­ci­sion came af­ter new ev­i­dence showed that Mr. Diab was in Lebanon writ­ing univer­sity ex­ams at the time of the 1980 bomb­ing; it also con­firmed Mr. Diab’s claim that his pass­port was stolen and used by some­one else at the time. De­spite this, an ap­peals court over­turned the de­ci­sion and re­jected his re­lease or­der on Tues­day, mean­ing Mr. Diab will re­main be­hind bars while French au­thor­i­ties de­ter­mine whether his case will go to trial.

“The ra­tio­nale has been to re­lease him would cause pub­lic dis­or­der in France, which is sim­ply po­lit­i­cal speak for they don’t want to ap­pear soft on ter­ror­ists, even though the judge says this guy’s in­no­cent,” said Don­ald Bayne, Mr. Diab’s Ot­tawa lawyer. “He be­longs to an un­pop­u­lar so­cial class in France. He’s a Mus­lim.”

Mr. Bayne said the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment is walk­ing a “very fine line not in­ter­fer­ing with the French ju­di­cial process and yet rec­og­niz­ing that it’s part of a tragedy un­fold­ing here at the ex­pense of a Cana­dian cit­i­zen.” He high­lighted that a for­eign state has al­ready “in­ter­vened” in Mr. Diab‘s case in an at­tempt to keep him be­hind bars, but de­clined to of­fer fur­ther de­tails. Mem­bers of Mr. Diab’s sup­port team in Ot­tawa said the Is­raeli se­cret ser­vice met with French in­ves­tiga­tive judges in late Septem­ber and of­fered their help in charg­ing him.

One of those sup­port­ers, Bob Thom­son, vis­ited Mr. Diab in prison Tues­day af­ter the pros­e­cu­tor blocked his re­lease. He said soli­tary con­fine­ment has been hard on Mr. Diab, who has lost about 15 kilo­grams since he was jailed. He is only al­lowed to leave his cell for four hours a day, dur­ing which time he takes part in prison ac­tiv­i­ties. Tues­day’s ac­tiv­ity was a paint­ing class – ev­i­dent when Mr. Diab showed up to his meet­ing with Mr. Thom­son with paint all over his hands.

“Nor­mally, he’s the last per­son to leave the paint­ing class. He wants to take ad­van­tage of every mo­ment out of his cell when he can. He said to­day he just couldn’t fo­cus on it.”

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