Hassan Diab

'Justice has finally prevailed. Miracles can happen still these days,' Hassan Diab said at a news conference on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press

What Happened

Hassan Diab is a Canadian sociologist, who until 2009 was employed as a University professor in Ottawa. In November 2008, Diab was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in response to a request by France. He was named by French authorities as the main suspect in the 1980 bombing of a synagogue in Paris. Canada began extradition proceedings against Diab in 2008 and, shortly thereafter, Diab’s employment was terminated. He was imprisoned in Canada and later released on strict bail conditions pending the result of extradition proceedings. Despite glaring deficiencies in France’s case against Diab, Canada vigorously pursued his extradition.

In 2014, based on Canada’s political and legal advocacy of France’s case against him, Hassan Diab was extradited to France, where he was held in solitary confinement for three years. After multiple denials of release, the entire case against Diab was dropped on the ground that France did not have a sufficient case to bring trial. With the support of Canadian human rights NGOs, Diab is calling for a public inquiry seeking accountability for his incarceration for almost a decade in Canadian and French jails and in order to critically review Canada’s extradition law. Canada’s Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, has refused to review Canada’s extradition law and has rejected Diab’s call for a public inquiry. Instead, she has offered an independent review of Diab’s case, which Diab has declared he will boycott.

Background

Procedural history of the case

In November 2008, University of Ottawa and Carleton University Professor, Hassan Diab was arrested without notice by the RCMP in Gatineau, Quebec. Diab was not charged with a crime, but rather, he was suspected by the French government of being involved in a 1980 synagogue bombing in Paris, which killed four people and injured dozens of others. Upon his arrest, Diab was held in prison in Ottawa. He was later released on stringent conditions, including ankle bracelet monitoring, during Canadian extradition proceedings.

On June 6, 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger ordered Diab’s extradition despite recognizing that the evidence brought by French authorities against him was “convoluted” and “confusing”. Justice Maranger also determined that France presented a “weak case” that would not likely result in a conviction and that it held “suspect” conclusions. .Diab appealed the result to the Ontario Court of Appeal, but his appeal was dismissed. Likewise, the Supreme Court of Canada denied Diab the permission to present a further appeal. On November 14, 2014, Diab was extradited from Canada to France to face charges linked to the Paris bombing. He remained in solitary confinement for three years in the Fleury-Mérogis prison in France without charge and was repeatedly denied bail on 8 occasions. Diab was released when French investigative judges dropped the charges against him due to a lack of evidence. In its decision discharging Diab, the French court stated the absence of matching fingerprints between the suspect and Diab as "unquestionably an essential element of discharge." Throughout all these years, Diab denied the charges and maintained his innocence. He is currently residing in Ottawa with his family.

Government of Canada’s position

the weak and contested evidence, the Canadian government agreed to extradite Diab to France and defended and maintained this decision through the legal procedure of extradition over a period of approximately five years. The Canadian government repeatedly argued that France, as the requesting state, has no obligation to provide full disclosure of all of its evidence. In other words, Canada maintained that France was not required “…to disclose contradictory or exculpatory information” that would demonstrate Diab’s innocence. Crown prosecutor Jeffrey Johnston stated that “France is entitled to cherry pick its evidence”. Moreover, in the face of mounting evidence from Diab discrediting France’s case, a senior Department of Justice lawyer sought to delay extradition proceedings in order to covertly obtain further evidence from France.

Hassan Diab’s position

As part of Diab’s challenge to the case against him in Canadian courts, he revealed several deficiencies in the evidence and narrative of the French charges. Diab demonstrated that the imprint of the palm on the window of the car rented by the alleged bomber did not match his own palm print. Moreover, this incompatibility between the palm prints was further proven by an RCMP report. Additionally, Diab demonstrated that when France compared the alleged bomber, Alexander Panadriyu’s, fingerprints with that of Diab’s, they did not match. The only remaining evidence against Diab was the five words on a registration card from the Hotel Celtic. However, during an initial report proffered by Canada, some of the handwriting samples used to compare to the registration card were found not to belong to Diab. This analysis forced France to remove the handwriting report from its extradition case. France completed a second handwriting analysis of Diab and the words on the registration card. Diab’s experts testified that the methodology of the new handwriting analysis was “flawed, did not follow international (or French) standards and was therefore not reliable”. He also provided compelling evidence that he was not in France during the time that the attack took place as he was studying and writing university exams in Lebanon.

Canadian Court’s findings

Despite the strength of Diab’s evidence and the weak case advanced by France, the Canadian courts confirmed that Diab should be deported to France. Ontario Superior Court Justice Maranger ordered Diab’s extradition despite finding the case against Diab “very problematic”, “very confusing” and “very convoluted”. Justice Maranger also stated that the hand writing evidence was “highly susceptible to criticism and impeachment”. But despite such finding, the Court allowed the handwriting analysis to be used in extraditing Diab. Justice Maranger found that “Canadian standards of evidence admissibility should not be used when considering foreign evidence” despite finding the evidence against Diab “manifestly unreliable”. He concluded that the prospects of Diab’s “conviction in the context of a fair trial seem unlikely” but his interpretation of the Canadian Extradition law compelled him to order Diab’s extradition. On May 15, 2014, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld Diab’s extradition to France which Diab sought to appeal to the Supreme Court. However, on November 13, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal from the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Diab’s extradition case.

Call for Public Inquiry

Diab is calling for a formal public inquiry into the role of the Canadian government in his extradition. He also seeks to have Canada re-examine and re-evaluate the Canadian Extradition Act to address its weaknesses in an effort to avoid cases like his from occurring in the future. Canada’s complicity in Diab’s case has also been characterized as being part of a broader systematic pattern of institutional racism that has marked a disturbing attitude towards Canadian Muslim men detained abroad. Donald Bayne, Diab’s lawyer, stated that the extradition process “denies Canadians fundamental rights and freedoms”… [and that] “…the whole act and process needs to be subject to intensive review." The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group has also joined the call for an independent and public inquiry into Diab’s case. On May 2, 2018, Amnesty International Canada and the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) sent an open letter to Justice Ministers Freeland and Wilson-Raybould seeking to launch “a thorough and independent inquiry into Diab’s extradition to France, including the conduct of Canadian officials during extradition hearings.”

On May 30, 2018, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould asked for an independent external review of Diab’s extradition. Diab’s lawyer has called for a boycott of the government’s external review, which is to be led by former Ontario Deputy Attorney General, Murray Segal. Speaking for Diab, Donald Bayne stated, "the real issues will not be addressed, no problem with existing law will be identified, no Ministry of Justice personnel will be embarrassed or sanctioned." Diab’s rejection of the external review is also being supported by Amnesty International and the BCCLA.

Relevant dates

  • November 2008: Diab was detained by the RCMP.
  • 6 June 2011: Justice Maranger ordered Diab’s extradition to France.
  • 14 November 2014: Diab was extradited from Canada to France.
  • 24 April 2017: French investigative judges ordered Diab’s release on bail for the sixth time, which was overturned by the Court of Appeal.
  • 12 January 2018: Diab was released from the prison in France and free to return to Ottawa.
  • 17 January 2018: Diab calls for a public inquiry in his case at a press conference in Ottawa.
  • May 2018: Canada announces an independent review of Diab’s case, but does not agree to review Canadian extradition law
  • July 2018: Justice Minister appoints Murray Segal, former Ontario Deputy Attorney General, to head Diab review. The review is boycotted by Diab

Role or Position

Hassan Diab is a Canadian citizen and sociology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. In 2008, France requested his extradition for his alleged involvement in the 1980 Paris synagogue bombing. He was extradited to France in 2014, where he was held without charge in solitary confinement for more than three years. He was released and returned back to Ottawa after a French judge dropped the charges against him on January 12th 2018.

Implications and Consequences

Transparency: Canada vigorously supported France’s request for Diab’s extradition and, in the process, glaring gaps in the French case were not brought to the attention of the Court. There is a strong public interest in understanding what information was known to Canada, whether information was deliberately suppressed and who was responsible for the way in which Diab’s extradition was handled legally. The political decision to extradite Diab on such weak evidence also bears scrutiny. In order to understand how an innocent Canadian man came to be jailed for almost a decade, placed under rigorous surveillance, removed from Canada and placed in solitary confinement, Canadians need to become aware of the role of governmental decision-makers and the process of challenging extradition under the law.

Democracy: The law of extradition permits the removal of persons from Canada to face charges or investigation in a foreign state on an extremely low threshold of evidence that does not comport with any standard of fairness or security normally applicable under Canadian law. This low threshold allows for the political will of Canada to be exercised relatively untrammeled, but does not provide for a procedurally robust fetter against expedient and unjustified decisions. For Muslims and Arab men stigmatized by the specter of terrorism allegations, it is vital that political leaders exercise caution and balanced reasoning in decision-making that avoids deference to rhetorical and short-sighted objectives in the War on Terror. An independent public review of Canada’s extradition law may provide a forum to recalibrate the legal standard that currently provides a judicial rubber stamp upon virtually every political decision to extradite.

Rule of law: The need for a proper independent review of the Diab case must include a review of Canada’s extradition law because the current model does not provide for a balanced and evidence-based mechanism to protect against abuse and bias in extradition decisions. For the rule of law to function effectively requires a framework rules that serves to limit the potential for government to act without scrutiny or meaningful review. A review of Canada’s extradition law is needed to promote the values of fairness and justice that are fundamental to the protection of the rights and dignity of every person in Canada

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