Freed Hassan Diab demands probe over 'terrorism' ordeal

Diab and supporters call for Canada to reform extradition law after professor was wrongfully handed over to France.

by
    Diab was held in a solitary confinement for more than three years in Paris [File: Chris Wattie/Reuters]
    Diab was held in a solitary confinement for more than three years in Paris [File: Chris Wattie/Reuters]

    HASSAN DIAB: FINALLY FREED WITHOUT TRIAL

    • Arrested in 2008 at request of French authorities
    • Accused of involvement in 1980 synagogue bombing in Paris
    • Freed on bail in 2009 under strict conditions
    • Extradition hearing begins in 2011 after year-long delay
    • Extradited to France in 2014
    • Freed January 2018

    "Is it possible?" Ottawa professor Hassan Diab asked himself when he heard the news.

    After three years and two months held in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison in a Parisian suburb, Diab - a 64-year-old Canadian - was stunned in disbelief when his lawyer finally delivered the news that he had been dreaming about for so long.

    {articleGUID}

    The judge had dismissed the allegations against him and had ordered for his immediate release.

    He was freed on January 15.

    Just to be sure that the "miracle" was real, Diab asked her to repeat and clarify the news a few times.

    "If you don't know English any more, it means we won," she said.

    After 10 years of draconian bail conditions and imprisonment, Diab is finally a free man. He arrived back home in Ottawa last week, rejoining his wife and two children, the youngest who was born in his absence.

    "It's a different world here," Diab told Al Jazeera. "I'm trying to reintegrate back to ordinary, normal life."

    He hadn't stepped outside for two years. For the two hours or so a day that he was brought out of his solitary confinement, he was brought 15 metres away from his cell to "a bigger cage" called "La Promenade".

    "You don't see the sky; you just see a part of the ceiling of the cage," Diab explained.

    "It's literally a cage. You have a chicken fence on the ceiling and a little window on the side and we were 10 people in [a space of] 20sq metres. Two square metres per person. And they called it a 'promenade'."

    Kafkaesque case

    Diab, a Lebanese Canadian was wrongly labelled a "terrorist", accused of involvement in the 1980 synagogue bombing in Paris that killed four people.

    He was arrested in Canada in 2008 at the request of French authorities and placed under draconian bail conditions before his extradition to France in 2014.

    However, a trial was never held. Often described by lawyers, rights groups, and media as a "Kafkaesque case", there was never any credible evidence presented against him.

    Diab's handwriting did not match the suspect's, nor his fingerprints, palm print or physical description.

    French investigative judges repeatedly stated that there is "consistent evidence" that Diab was in Beirut, writing his exams at the time of the attack in Paris, which Diab has maintained throughout.

    Hassan Diab enjoys time with his children after a 10-year ordeal [Courtesy of justiceforhassandiab.org]

    Despite an overwhelming evidence of his innocence, Diab was imprisoned for 1,154 days.

    According to Canada's extradition law, an individual can be extradited only when the foreign country has credible, reliable evidence to take the case to trial.

    However, France never had a credible case against Diab to begin with.

    Diab was extradited even though Canadian extradition judge Robert Maranger warned the evidence against him was "illogical, very problematic, convoluted, very confusing, with conclusions that are suspect".

    "The prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial seem unlikely," Maranger predicted.

    However, as the extradition judge, Maranger only "committed" Diab for extradition.

    Rob Nicholson, Canada's justice minister at the time, held the ultimate veto for extradition.

    Nicholson was the only official who had complete discretion and, despite Maranger's warnings, he gave the green light for Diab's extradition.

    With his name finally cleared, Diab and his supporters are calling for a public inquiry and to amend the extradition law so that no other Canadian experiences the same injustice.

    Canadian extradition law stipulates that Canadians can be sent for trial in other countries, but not to languish for years and years without trial, without anything, just waiting and in the end, 'Oh, sorry! It was a mistake.'

    Hassan Diab, wrongfully accused Lebanese Canadian professor

    "The extradition law is above the Canadian criminal law, but it should be the other way around," Diab said.

    "What applies to Canadians here should apply to other places … we are trying to say, 'enough is enough.'

    "Canadian extradition law stipulates that Canadians can be sent for trial in other countries, but not to languish for years and years without trial without anything, just waiting and in the end, [to say] 'Oh, sorry! It was a mistake.'"

    The extradition act places a low threshold for foreign countries to request individuals and a high bar for the accused to prove their innocence. France was not even required to provide sworn testimony against Diab.

    "I argue that this was not a case France was ready to try. This was an ongoing investigation," said Diab's Canadian lawyer, Donald Bayne.

    "When the current extradition act was passed, in the discussions in parliament that led up to it, the justice minister at the time promised Canadians in parliament that this act was not to enable foreign countries to get their hands on Canadians for the purpose of detaining them for foreign investigation.

    "The language he used was - no Canadians will languish in a foreign prison during a foreign investigation pursuant to an extradition. That's exactly what happened in Dr Diab's case. Canadian courts simply ignored that," Bayne said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Thou Shalt Not Kill: Israel's Hilltop Youth

    Thou Shalt Not Kill: Israel's Hilltop Youth

    Meet the hardline group willing to do anything, including going against their government, to claim land for Israel.