Middle East studies in the News
Ottawa Academic Hassan Diab to Appeal French Court Bail Refusal
by Chris Cobb
Former University of Ottawa professor Hassan Diab, extradited last November to face terrorism charges in France, will on Friday appeal a Paris court's refusal to grant him bail.
The 60-year-old Diab had his first bail application rejected March 12 on three grounds: That he is a flight risk; that he might collude or contact witnesses and accomplices; that his release would be a risk to public order.
Diab is a suspect in the 1980 bombing of a downtown Paris synagogue.
The Paris attack, the first against French Jews since the Second World War, came at the height of terrorist activity by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — an organization to which the Lebanon-born Canadian citizen denies ever belonging.
"I am innocent of the accusations against me," Diab told the Citizen last year. "I have never engaged in terrorism. I am not an anti-Semite and have always been opposed to bigotry and violence."
He has also denied being in France the day the synagogue was bombed and there is no passport evidence to suggest that he was.
Diab's French lawyer, Stephane Bonifasse, told the Citizen on Tuesday the only real issue is whether Diab is a flight risk — a concern he is prepared to allay by agreeing to strict bail conditions.
"That he might collude with alleged accomplices after 36 years is the world of fantasy," he said. "And what does a risk to public order mean? I don't know."
Officially, the case is still under a secret investigation by French authorities and although in theory they could decide that Diab has no case to answer, Bonifasse said there is no chance of that.
Diab's trial will start in the first half of 2016 at the earliest, he said.
Bonifasse said academic is in a "combative mood" and determined to prove his innocence.
"He's studying the case in detail and that's keeping him going," he said. "I think it's saving him from falling into depression."
Diab is being held in a special unit at Fleury-Mérogis Prison in the southern suburbs of Paris. It houses 3,800 inmates and is the largest prison in Europe.
Conditions in Diab's unit appear to be "quite good," added the lawyer who said he meets and speaks to him regularly.
Diab was extradited to France after a controversial six-year legal odyssey that ended with a refusal by the Supreme Court of Canada to hear his case.
Part of the French case against him includes unsourced intelligence material that was ultimately withdrawn by Canadian Justice Department lawyers acting for France because they couldn't prove it wasn't gleaned from torture.
What remained was French handwriting analysis that Diab's extradition judge said was unlikely to produce a conviction in any Canadian criminal court.
But under the lower threshold of Canadian extradition law, the judge ruled that it was enough to extradite.
The intelligence evidence and handwriting analysis will be part of the French case when the trial eventually begins.
A decision on Diab's bail appeal is expected next Tuesday but Bonifasse noted that the public mood in France since the January Charlie Hebdo terrorist murders is not helping the Canadian's cause.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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