Middle East studies in the News
Handwriting Experts Debate Diab's Case
by Jane Gerster
A British handwriting expert in the extradition hearing of former Carleton professor Hassan Diab stood by his analysis of French evidence in court Jan. 5, calling into question the qualifications of the prosecution's key expert.
Handwriting experts have been comparing the writing on a hotel registration card, allegedly written on by the perpetrator of the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue, with Diab's immigration papers.
Robert Radley, a forensic document examiner who is the defense's third handwriting expert, said he had "concerns" with French expert Ann Bisotti's resumé, saying her experience in expert analysis is "staggeringly little."
"This, frankly, is nothing," Radley told the court.
Bisotti's analysis on behalf of the French is the third analysis sent by France. The two others were withdrawn following challenges by Diab's lawyer, Donald Bayne, according to the Ottawa Citizen.
Radley said in his 34 years as an expert witness, he has had few disputes with prosecution experts.
"I don't lose many cases if the issues are purely handwriting," he added.
Despite telling the court he has no knowledge of proceedings in French courts, Radley said he has presented in many different countries and the report is essentially the same.
In court on Jan. 4, Radley also argued that Bisotti was too quick to dismiss handwriting differences as natural variations, according to theOttawa Citizen.
"When you have so many differences," he told the court, "you've got to take into account the possibility of another writer. . . . All the evidence points in the other direction [away from Diab]."
During cross-examination Jan. 5, Radley was critical of Bisotti's method of analysis, telling the court, "This is not high technology, I assure you," and saying it was not up to the European Network of Forensic Handwriting Experts' standards.
He also said the analysis should have been done on the original signature, not a scanned copy as used by Bisotti.
"Immediately, you've lost a vast amount of evidence," Radley said.
He dismissed the prosecution's explanation that Bisotti was not given enough access to the original, telling the court that in some cases, he's made government officials stay with him until his analysis is complete,"if I think it's essential," he said, adding, "In 95 per cent of cases it is."
Radley admitted he himself has done analyses without originals, but said he was "potentially losing a lot of information."
If Bisotti was unable to gain better access to the original, it should have been noted in the record, Radley argued.
While Diab has declined to comment, he asserted his innocence in a Nov. 8 statement on the website for the group Justice for Hassan Diab.
"I am innocent of the charges against me," he said. "I hope this extradition hearing will end the witch-hunt atmosphere I have been living under."
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