Canada must not extradite Diab regardless of coming French court decision: lawyer

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Canada must not extradite Diab regardless of coming French court decision: lawyer

OTTAWA – The Canadian government should not be involved in another unlawful extradition of Hassan Diab, despite the outcome of an impending ruling by the French Supreme Court, his lawyer said Wednesday.

OTTAWA – The Canadian government should not be involved in another unlawful extradition of Hassan Diab, despite the outcome of an impending ruling by the French Supreme Court, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Donald Bayne said at a virtual press conference the government should reassure the Ottawa Sociology professor and Canadians that the country will not be embroiled in further injustices.

His French lawyers have appealed a January 27 decision by the French Court of Appeals bringing Diab to court, and Bayne said the French Supreme Court would rule on the appeal next Wednesday.

“In 2014, there was an unlawful extradition by Canada of a Canadian citizen, Dr. Diab, not because of legal proceedings but because of further investigations,” said Bayne.

French authorities suspected that Diab was involved in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue, killing four people and injuring dozens. He has consistently denied this accusation.

After lengthy trials up to the Supreme Court of Canada, Diab was extradited to France, where he spent three years behind bars, including time in solitary confinement.

In January 2018, French judges dismissed the charges against him for lack of evidence and ordered his immediate release. After that court ruling, 67-year-old Diab returned to Ottawa to live with his wife and young children.

“While he was in solitary confinement in France, two experienced French investigative judges, experts in terrorism cases, conducted investigations for over three years and presented a range of reliable, confirmed, even scientific evidence of innocence,” said Diab’s lawyer.

Bayne said that even if the French Supreme Court reverts to the investigating judges’ “common sense” and rules in favor of Diab, the case will still be referred back to the French Court of Appeal under the rules of the country’s legal system.

He said there are influential groups in France who are campaigning for Diab to stand trial and accused the authorities in the country of persecuting him for political purposes.

Ihsaan Gardee, director of programs and communications at Amnesty International Canada, said his organization was deeply disappointed that the French authorities appealed the court ruling dismissing the case against Diab.

“It was particularly worrying that the appeal process had taken another three years and left Hassan and his family in a state of excruciating concern,” he said.

He said the trial that Diab faced was marked by violations of key international human rights obligations regarding arbitrary arrest and detention, fair trials and solitary confinement.

“The appeal ruling now essentially opens the door to more of the same,” he said.

The national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, an Ottawa-based coalition of 45 groups, called on the Canadian government to pledge not to extradite Diab.

“We don’t know how the trial in France will end, but we are in control of what happens in Canada,” said Tim McSorley.

“Today we call on Prime Minister Trudeau to explain to his French counterparts in the strongest possible terms that the persecution of Hassan Diab must come to an end.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Trudeau signaled in March that Canada would “stand up” for Diab, but his words made Diab’s supporters wish Trudeau had been more involved in pledging support.

He said Ottawa had and will continue to communicate with officials in France about the case.

“It has been a priority for us to make sure we stand up for our citizens around the world, in countries that are challenging, but also with our allies,” he said.

“And these talks will continue.”

McSorley said it was also necessary to correct the flawed Canadian laws that set Diab on this path in the first place.

“What happened to Hassan (Diab) exposed the fundamental flaws in Canada’s extradition system,” he said.

He said leading extradition law experts have been calling for change for years and the federal government needs to listen now.

“The same experts have made specific proposals on how to address these issues,” he said.

“We urge Prime Minister Trudeau, along with Justice Minister Lametti, to commit to these changes to ensure that this never happens again.”

This Canadian press report was first published on May 12, 2021.

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This story was produced with financial support from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, the Canadian press