Joint statement from Independent Jewish Voices Canada and l’Union Juive Française pour la Paix (UJFP)
For a second time in a decade, France is seeking to extradite Dr. Hassan Diab for a crime that he did not commit, and one that he could not have committed. Last month a French court convicted him of the 1980 murder of four people, and injuries to 40 others in a bombing outside a Paris synagogue. Now France wants Diab extradited to serve a life sentence in a French prison.
This is not the first time Diab, a Canadian citizen, faces extradition to France. Canada allowed his extradition to a French prison in 2014, awaiting charges and a trial. There was never a shred of evidence to charge him, yet in spite of Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger’s misgivings, Diab was extradited to France after a six-year legal battle. Some legal scholars have criticized Canada’s extradition system as neither efficient nor fair.
Diab was jailed in 2014 while two French judges carried out a three-year in-depth investigation. In 2018, the judges determined that there was no evidence to justify even laying charges against Diab, let alone proceeding with a trial.
In 2018, Diab returned to Canada after more than three years in prison, mainly in solitary confinement. After his liberty and his family had been taken from him for years in a shocking miscarriage of justice, Prime Minister Trudeau said, “what happened to him never should have happened.”
Let’s hope Trudeau stands behind his words today and refuses to allow Diab’s extradition for a second time. This time, the stakes are much higher – in April he was convicted by a French court again without a shred of evidence. The court ordered that he serve a life sentence.
For 15 years, Diab has been named the only suspect in the 1980 bombing. Diab, 69 years of age and a married father of two young children, works as a part-time sociology professor in Ottawa.
The facts in the case reveal how Diab has been wrongly targeted:
- The bombing took place 42 years ago. There were no eyewitnesses who identified Diab
- There was a scrawled signature on a hotel registry card – but the handwriting from court appointed experts ruled out Diab
- The thumbprint the French police lifted from the hotel registry card did not match Diab’s prints
- At the time of the bombing, Diab was a student writing his university exams in Beirut, Lebanon. At least a handful of his fellow students in 1980 gave evidence that they were writing exams with him in Beirut at the time.
- There is no evidence he took a train or a plane –or was even in Paris on that day.
In 2014, when Justice Maranger allowed Diab to be extradited to France it was on the basis of one French handwriting expert. But since then, that expert has been discredited. The French court appointed two other handwriting experts who have sworn the signature on the hotel card was not written by Diab.
If Diab’s case had come before a Canadian criminal court, he never would have been convicted. There were no witnesses, and there is no circumstantial evidence. Yet the French court is under pressure to find the culprit. For 27 years, France has charged no one with the heinous crime of the synagogue bombing. In the last 15 years the French justice system has set its sights on Diab as their prime suspect. Diab’s Canadian lawyer Donald Bayne notes that while the victims and their families deserve justice, “What they don’t deserve is a scapegoat or a miscarriage of justice… What’s at stake here is the wrongful conviction of a Canadian citizen.”
Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) and l’Union juive française pour la paix (UJFP) support Dr. Hassan Diab fully. With other progressive organizations we demand the Canadian government not bow to France’s demand for his extradition. Let Diab stay in Canada where he belongs. Diab has suffered for 15 years. First, he was falsely accused, then he lost his job and career, then he was deprived of being with his family for 38 months while he was jailed thousands of kilometres away. Now back in Canada, he is facing a life sentence in a French prison for a crime he did not commit, and could not have committed.
Please take action now and send a letter to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau demanding that he stand by his word and refuse to extradite Dr. Hassan Diab for a second time.