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How France lied about Hassan Diab

Canadian PoliticsHuman Rights

A Canadian citizen falsely accused of bombing a Paris synagogue in 1980, Hassan Diab was wrongly extradited in 2014 and held, without charge, in a maximum-security French prison for 38 months. Still image from YouTube/CBC.

The entire spectrum of our national press has covered the unfolding story of Hassan Diab since its inception in 2007. A Canadian citizen falsely accused of bombing a Paris synagogue in 1980, Dr. Diab, at the behest of France, was wrongly extradited in 2014 and held, without charge, in a maximum-security French prison for 38 months. In 2018, judges released him since evidence consistently underscored his innocence. The January 27 Court of Appeal ruling that Dr. Diab stand trial was shocking. The Court of Appeal’s report was riddled with egregious misrepresentations, logical inconsistencies, and wild fabrications.

Given that the hard facts speak in favour of Dr. Diab’s innocence, and having watched his lawyer, Don Bayne, easily refute the prosecution’s case, it was a fair assumption that Dr. Diab’s freedom would soon be granted. But on May 19, flying in the face of exculpatory evidence, France’s Cour de cassation (Supreme Court) upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision. Why is Diab being scapegoated? For an answer to this question we need to examine the politics of deceit underpinning France’s second Dreyfus Affair.

For 40 years, French authorities have tried to solve the conundrum of the 1980 bomber of the Paris synagogue on rue Copernic. They struggled for many years and finally realized that they had reached an impasse. But they could not admit failure publicly; nor would pressure from the victims’ lobby allow them to abandon the file. The victims’ lobby demanded closure. The hunt thus continued undeterred, but with one caveat: the sacrifice of an Arab would be imperative—it would align with France’s Islamophobic politics and the spread of anti-Arab racism.

The French authorities relied on foreign intelligence. Yet, the scenario they dreamt up could barely satisfy the script of a B movie. For even by its own logic, the fiction that prosecutors concocted makes no sense. Their story is incoherent, speculative, fanciful, and, not least, brazen. Replete with groundless assertions, its most salient howler is a convoluted narrative about Diab’s lost passport coupled with a contradictory claim that he had taken exams in Beirut between late September and early October while also planting a bomb in Paris during that same period.

If telling tales of Dr. Diab’s superhuman ubiquity were not enough, French authorities also presented a deceitful extradition request. In 2008, they suppressed fingerprint analyses that proved that Diab’s fingerprints did not match those of the bomber (they were fortunate that Canada’s flawed extradition laws prohibited the disclosure of Diab’s alibi, that he was in Beirut at the time of the bombing writing exams, since that alibi, along with the mismatching fingerprints, would have scuttled his extradition from the start).

In the absence of this crucial information, extradition hearings went ahead, focussing on a flimsy handwriting analysis that erroneously linked Dr. Diab’s calligraphic style to the bomber’s. The analysis was fully discredited by international and (most recently) by French experts. Indeed, the entire handwriting issue was a colossal distraction; but it bought time for the French authorities, whose framing of Dr. Diab rested on non-disclosure of exculpatory evidence, as well as on foreign intelligence, likely sourced through torture, and a knotted yarn of disconnected information. The latter formed a fabric of lies stretching from 2007 to 2018, and was recently threaded into the Court of Appeal’s ruling of January 27, 2021.

With unethical conduct, French authorities sought to pull the wool over Canada’s eyes. Their act of deception and shoddy legal work reek of colonial contempt, not to mention Islamophobic bias. The mystery bomber aside, they are the guilty party, and it is high time we placed them on the hot seat and exposed their multiple crimes against the long-suffering Dr. Diab.

It is also high time that Justin Trudeau intervened to extricate our fellow Canadian citizen from France’s corrupt judiciary. The Hassan Diab case is a political one and deserves a political solution. Trudeau has the power to stand up to his French counterparts. He should do what is morally right, and do it now.

Michelle Weinroth is a writer, teacher, and member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

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