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Hassan Diab: Last stop on the railroad

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Apparently caving in to the current anti-terrorist panic, the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the appeal of fellow-citizen Hassan Diab against his extradition to France for alleged involvement in the rue Copernic bombing of a synagogue in Paris.

I have followed this case closely, and sat through several court sessions in which Diab and his lawyers laid bare the almost cavalier inadequacy of the French case against him. Rather than reviewing all that, I'll let the extradition judge sum up the case in his own words: "The case presented by the Republic of France against Mr. Diab is a weak case. The prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial seem unlikely."

There’s a good synopsis of the proceedings against him here. Diab was committed for extradition primarily on the basis of handwriting analysis that was decisively refuted by world-class experts. (The "analyst" deployed by France had 21 hours of training.)

Canada is a patchwork quilt of extradition law, which is a provincial responsibility. Diab was ordered extradited under Ontario law. He would not have been in BC. The SCC could have set a national standard here, so that Canadians across the country would be equal under the law. Instead, matters remain exactly as they are. Any citizen can be extradited with relatively weak evidence by Canadian legal standards; in Ontario, it’s virtually on whim. Diab hasn't even been formally charged with anything by the French authorities. Doesn't matter.

He will not receive anything like a fair trial in France. There, evidence obtained under torture has been held admissible in a court of law; in Canada, it is not. Part of France's Record of Case against Diab was withdrawn at the last minute because of that. Be assured it will now be produced, in all of its tainted glory. And under French law, the defence (not to mention the court itself) will never know the actual source of this "intelligence."

It's not that a conviction is assured -- worse, it is required. An atrocity like the synagogue bombing cries out for retribution. Our sense of justice demands it. The normal presumption of innocence fails to function: blood will have blood. France stumbled after the bombing occurred, its then-Prime Minister Raymond Barre calling the bombing "a heinous act against Jews in a synagogue that struck four innocent Frenchmen crossing the street" -- the implication, intended or not, being that French Jews were neither innocent nor French. Well, France now has its chance to repair the damage. The long arm of the law has finally got a man by the neck. Innocent or guilty, his sacrifice, and with it France’s expiation, is now assured.

In Canada, there will be a collective "good riddance." Our soldiers are being murdered on the streets. No one is safe any more. So what if the evidence against Hassan Diab runs from weak to grossly contradictory to nonexistent? After all, it's not as though his name were Mike Smith.

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