Canada Court Upholds Extradition of Lebanese Bomb Suspect
An appeals court Thursday upheld a judge's decision that a Canadian-Lebanese man should be extradited to France in connection with a 1980 Paris synagogue bombing that killed four people.
The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the lower-court judge and the federal justice minister made no legal errors in concluding Hassan Diab should be handed to French authorities.
Canadian police arrested Diab, a 60-year-old Canadian of Lebanese descent, in 2008 in response to a request from France, where he is wanted on charges of murder and attempted murder in the Oct. 3, 1980 bombing.
The bomb, hidden in the saddlebags of a parked motorcycle, exploded outside a Parisian synagogue during a Sabbath service, killing three French men and one Israeli woman.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-Special Operations was blamed for the bombing at the time. The investigation was reopened after Diab's name turned up on a list of former members of a Palestinian extremist group obtained by German intelligence officials.
Diab, who had been a part-time sociology professor at both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa before his arrest, has denied any role in the attack.
Stamps in Diab's 1980 passport indicated he was not in France at the time of the bombing.
In June 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger committed Diab for extradition to face French authorities despite acknowledging the case against him was weak.
The following April, then-justice minister Rob Nicholson signed an extradition order surrendering Diab to France.
During the Ontario Superior Court case, Maranger examined elements of France's request including eyewitness descriptions, composite sketches and handwriting on a hotel registration card allegedly penned by Diab — evidence his lawyers fiercely disputed.
In his ruling Maranger concluded that France had presented "a weak case" that makes the prospect of conviction, "in the context of a fair trial, seem unlikely." But he said Diab must be sent to France under the terms of Canada's extradition law.
In his appeal, Diab argued that a flawed handwriting analysis and other evidence that at best creates a degree of suspicion amounts to a case that does not allow committal for extradition.
However, the Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that Maranger "did not err in his approach."
Diab also contended that Nicholson made several mistakes, including opting to surrender him even though France has not yet decided whether to put him on trial for the bombing.
The appeal court ruled that the minister's surrender decision was reasonable, "even though a trial in France is not a certainty."
The court said a process or prosecution must simply be underway "that will, if not discontinued, lead to a trial. A trial of that person, however, need not be inevitable."