rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

No justice for Hassan Diab

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Rally on Parliament Hill calling for justice for Hassan Diab. Image credit: justiceforhassandiab.org

On January 27, 2021, France's court of appeal ruled that Canadian professor Hassan Diab must stand trial for a 1980 bombing outside a synagogue in Paris. This decision comes three years after a lower court dismissed the case, citing a lack of evidence, and released him. Diab returned to Canada. The latest court decision is devastating to Diab and his family. For them it has been a battle against injustice that has gone on since 2008, almost 13 years.

As president and now former president of Canadian Unitarians For Social Justice (CUSJ), I have been following Diab's case since I met him in 2008. I could never have imagined that an innocent man could go through what he has had to go through since then. In 2008 France requested Diab's extradition for his alleged involvement in the 1980 Paris bombing, which killed four people. He was picked up by the RCMP, right out of his classroom, where he was teaching sociology at Carleton University in Ottawa. They incarcerated this quiet, gentle, Lebanese-born Canadian citizen as a terrorist. Eventually he won the right to home custody, on the condition that he pay $2,000 a month for his own ankle bracelet. This went on for years as he appealed his extradition to France through every legal challenge. Many experts reviewed the handwriting evidence used in the case and found it faulty. Canadian judges said the evidence was flimsy and would never stand up in a Canadian court, yet none of them stopped the extradition.

On November 14, 2014, Diab ran out of appeals, and was extradited to France. He spent over three years in solitary confinement without charge or trial. He had one hour to either read or exercise each day. While he was there, his son was born in Canada. He missed the chance to watch his daughter, Jena, and his son, Jad, grow up. He missed his loyal wife, Rania Tfaily.

Many times, the French courts found no reason to keep him in jail and offered bail, but the prosecutor refused to let him out. Eventually a French investigator actually found the evidence that he was not in Paris, but rather taking exams in Beirut at the time of the bombing. Time and again the evidence of a handwriting sample was re-examined and found faulty. Yet time and again, the French prosecutor continued his incarceration and refused bail.

In 2018, when two judges in France ordered the dismissal of terrorism charges against him for lack of evidence, finally Prime Minister Justin Trudeau intervened and brought him home to Canada. Trudeau said, "what happened to him never should have happened." Yet, after three years to recover his health from the ordeal, it is starting all over again. 

Numerous human rights groups, civil society organizations, and labour unions -- including Amnesty International Canada, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Criminal Lawyers' Association, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and CUSJ, among others -- have supported Diab in his quest for justice. It is outrageous that France should continue to pursue this innocent man without believable evidence.

What are the justice issues raised by this case? Is not every Canadian deserving of due and fair process under the law? Was it due process to punish Diab by making him pay for his own ankle bracelet? Why did our extradition laws allow Diab to be extradited when there was no credible evidence against him? Why did France keep a man in solitary confinement for three years when the UN's Mandela Rules suggest that any longer than two weeks in isolation is tantamount to torture? And why did the French keep him in jail for three years without charge or trial date and without Diab being able to see the evidence against him? Canada and France have a lot to answer for.

What will Trudeau do? "It is time for the Canadian government to stand up and take responsibility for their part in this travesty of justice," said Lynn Armstrong, president of CUSJ. "He should put pressure on the French government to dismiss these charges and release Professor Diab once and for all. He should call a full public and independent inquiry into the Canadian extradition system. What would be unconscionable would be to send him back to France. That must never happen."

Rev. Frances Deverell is past president of the Canadian Unitarians For Social Justice, a national social justice organization that works for the rights of Indigenous peoples, environmental and economic justice, democracy, human rights, and peace.

Image credit: justiceforhassandiab.org

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.