Has­san Diab case needs res­o­lu­tion

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - COMMENT -

T hough many Cana­di­ans are frus­trated at how slowly the wheels of jus­tice turn — es­pe­cially when ac­cu­sa­tions of terrorism are in­volved — it seems we have noth­ing on the French.

On Fri­day, French ap­peal court judges de­layed — again — any mean­ing­ful rul­ing in the case of Ot­tawa’s Has­san Diab, who has faced terrorism al­le­ga­tions for a decade. In­stead, the judges or­dered a new re­view of some hand­writ­ing ev­i­dence that was key to Diab’s ex­tra­di­tion from Canada in 2014.

Diab was held mostly in soli­tary con­fine­ment for three years while the French in­ves­ti­ga­tion dragged on. The ac­cu­sa­tion was of the high­est de­gree: that he had planted a bomb out­side a Paris sy­n­a­gogue in 1980. That blast killed four peo­ple nearby and in­jured 40 both in­side and out­side the build­ing.

Given the heinous na­ture of the crime, per­haps it is for­giv­able that the French pro­ceeded slowly once they had their sus­pect in cus­tody. But Diab al­ways has said he is in­no­cent and was in Le­banon at the time of that 1980 at­tack. This past Jan­uary, a French in­ves­tiga­tive judge, point­ing to weak­nesses in the prose­cu­tion ev­i­dence, de­cided the case shouldn’t even go ahead. Diab, free, flew back to Ot­tawa.

But there was an ap­peal. Terrorism is as re­viled in France as it is here, af­ter all, and oth­ers in the jus­tice sys­tem weren’t con­vinced by Diab’s as­ser­tions of in­no­cence or his ar­gu­ment that it was a case of mis­taken iden­tity. Still, he and his le­gal team hoped there’d be a de­ci­sion Fri­day not to push the case to trial.

In­stead, the ap­peal judges have or­dered an ex­pert re­view of some words scrawled on a ho­tel reg­is­ter that are sup­posed to be­long to the bomber.

For Diab, it’s ex­as­per­at­ing. In an in­ter­view Fri­day, he called the drawn-out process “Or­wellian” and added, “I feel more than ever that France doesn’t want to ad­mit they made a mis­take.”

Western coun­tries are un­der­stand­ably on edge about terrorism — wit­ness the emo­tional de­bate in Canada about the po­ten­tial re­turn of “for­eign fight­ers” or the rage many feel about our gov­ern­ment pay­ing $10 mil­lion to for­mer Guan­tanamo in­mate Omar Khadr — but the con­tin­ued de­lays in deal­ing with Diab don’t look good on France.

It doesn’t look great on Canada, ei­ther. Even be­fore he was sent to France, Diab spent years un­der threat of ex­tra­di­tion from this coun­try af­ter his ini­tial 2008 ar­rest. He lost his job at Car­leton Univer­sity and he couldn’t work.

France must de­cide this case soon. Vic­tims, the pub­lic and Diab are owed a fi­nal de­ci­sion.

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