Hassan Diab case needs resolution
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.