Tuesday November 14, 2017

Hassan Diab's wife 'stunned' as French court blocks Ottawa professor's release for 8th time

Last week a judge ordered that Ottawa professor Hassan Diab should at be let out of prison but kept on an ankle monitor, but that release order has been overturned on appeal.

Last week a judge ordered that Ottawa professor Hassan Diab should at be let out of prison but kept on an ankle monitor, but that release order has been overturned on appeal. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Listen 6:11

Read Story Transcript

Once again, Hassan Diab had his freedom dangled in front of him, only to be snatched away at the last minute. 

The Ottawa professor, who was extradited to France in 2014 to face first-degree murder charges in a 1980 Paris synagogue bombing, learned Tuesday that his latest release order has been overturned.

"Even though this was the eighth time his release order was overturned, I was really shocked," Hassan's wife, Carleton University professor Rania Tfaily, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"I remained stunned for a few minutes not knowing if this was reality, whether we live in an alternate world."

Four judges have ruled eight times that Diab should be released on bail from the maximum-security Parisian prison where he's being held. But each time, an appeals court has quashed the order, arguing security reasons.

This latest twist comes after a foreign government intervened to provide new documents in the case, Diab's lawyer Donald Bayne  told the Ottawa Citizen. He would not say which country, only that it was not Canada or France.

Amnesty International calls for release

Diab was arrested in Gatineau, Que. in 2008 and extradited to France on Nov. 14, 2014, to face charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and destruction of property with an explosive or incendiary substance linked to the bombing that killed four people and injured dozens more.

French authorities allege he made and planted the bomb, arguing his handwriting matched five words written by a suspect.

'It's like an alternate world where, you know, truth, evidence, logic, rationality don't count.' Rania Tfaily, Hassan Diab's wife 

But Diab has long maintained his innocence, with five handwriting experts testifying that the analysis relied on at trial was flawed and lawyers arguing someone else's fingerprints were found at the scene.

Numerous judges have questioned the evidence against him, including the French judge who said last year that Diab could not have committed the crime because he was in Lebanon at the time, studying for and writing university exams.

France Hassan Diab 20170427

Hassan Diab's wife, Rania Tfaily, says she feels like she's living in an 'alternate' world where facts don't matter. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

"It's like an alternate world where, you know, truth, evidence, logic, rationality don't count and I also don't know what to think anymore," Tfaily said.

In June, Amnesty International called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to put more pressure on France to send Diab home.

Bayne has argued Diab is being held for purely political reasons, so France can appear tough on terror and Canada can maintain cozy relations with France. 

Tfaily said she has met with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland several times and was promised that Canada is "raising concerns" about the case with France.

A spokesperson for Freeland's office told As It Happens Canadian officials were present at Diab's most recent court hearing and are in regular contact with his family.

"Global Affairs Canada is following Mr. Diab's case in France very closely," Freeland's office said in an email.

"Minister Freeland has discussed Mr. Diab's case with her French counterparts and Canadian officials also engage regularly with French officials on this case."

Despite all the hoops they've jumped through, Tfaily said the latest news came as a shock.

"People who know Hassan know that he's an optimistic person by nature," she said. "I think he had his hopes raised up. I also had my hopes raised up. I mean, I didn't really see it coming this time."

— With files from CBC News