Hassan Diab appeal decision delayed a month

Hassan Diab will have to wait one more month before learning whether the French Court of Appeal will uphold the decision to release him from a Paris jail and send him home to Canada.

Ottawa university lecturer awaits ruling on his release from Paris jail

Hassan Diab will have to wait another month for a decision on whether the French Court of Appeal will uphold the decision to release him from a Paris jail. (Lisa Laventure/CBC)

Hassan Diab will have to wait one more month before learning whether the French Court of Appeal will uphold the decision to release him from a Paris jail and send him home to Canada.

This morning in Paris, French judges set Oct. 26 for what should be the final decision at the appellate court level in the decade-long legal battle the Ottawa university lecturer and his family have endured.

France appealed a January decision to release Diab and send him home to Ottawa.

Diab and his family had hoped to have this resolved on July 6, when the Court of Appeal delayed its decision due to the sudden appearance of new evidence.

At that time, the three French magistrates in Paris revealed they had received new information from Greek authorities that needed to be translated and turned over to the parties in the case for review. The case was set over until today.

Today's hearing lasted just three minutes, as Diab's lawyers and French prosecutors felt the Greek evidence didn't warrant any further arguments.

A frustrated Diab got the news in his Ottawa apartment in a text message from his French lawyers.

"It's a part of this whole process. Delaying delaying delaying. One delay after another," he said.

"It makes you wonder what's going on here? We are in total darkness. We have no idea what's going on."

Diab, a 64-year-old Ottawa university lecturer, was suspected by French authorities of involvement in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people and injured more than 40. Diab consistently has maintained his innocence.

He was arrested by RCMP in November 2008 and placed under strict bail conditions until he was extradited to France in 2014. Diab spent more than three years in prison in France before the terrorism case against him fell apart.

He was never formally charged.

'A weak case'

The case has raised troubling questions about the standard of evidence required by Canadian law for extradition.

Robert Maranger, the Ontario Superior Court judge who ordered Diab's extradition in 2011, wrote in his decision that France had presented "a weak case; the prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial seem unlikely."

Maranger ordered Diab's extradition on the strength of handwriting analysis that allegedly linked Diab to the bomber. It was said to be the only piece of physical evidence linking Diab to the 1980 terrorist attack.

But in their January order, obtained by CBC News, the French investigative judges ultimately dismissed that evidence as unreliable.

Another key factor in Diab's release was the high probability that he wasn't even in Paris on the day of the bombing. Using university records and interviews with Diab's classmates, the investigative judges determined he was "probably in Lebanon" writing exams when the Rue Copernic attack happened.

"It is likely that Hassan Diab was in Lebanon during September and October 1980 … and it is therefore unlikely that he is the man … who then laid the bomb on Rue Copernic on October 3rd, 1980," they wrote.

Diab boycotting review

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has asked the former deputy attorney general of Ontario, Murray Segal, to conduct an external review of Diab's extradition.

Through his lawyer Donald Bayne, Diab announced that he would boycott that review, arguing its scope is too narrow and it appears to be nothing more than a "concerted damage-control effort."

Segal will be asked to assess whether Department of Justice officials followed the law and departmental procedures while conducting the extradition.

He also will address whether government lawyers who handle extradition cases need to change their approach, and whether Canada needs to address specific issues with France over that country's treatment of Diab.

But Segal isn't being tasked with a review Canada's extradition laws themselves — something Diab and his supporters have demanded. Segal's authority also falls short of the judge-led public inquiry asked for by Diab, rights groups such as Amnesty International and some politicians.

"This is so fundamentally wrong and disappointing," said Bayne. "As fine a fellow as Murray Segal is, he is not an independent judge. He's a career prosecutor."

Bayne said the external review will not allow for a cross-examination of Justice Department officials in the way a public inquiry would.

"Where is Hassan Diab's right to challenge what they did to him? Only a public inquiry can have credibility," Bayne said.

Segal spent decades holding senior positions in the Ontario public service before leaving for the private sector, where he has worked as a lawyer, mediator and consultant.

He has led a number of high-profile reviews — notably the independent probe of the actions of Nova Scotia police and public prosecutors in the Rehtaeh Parsons case. He also has conducted reviews of CSIS and the Criminal Law Branch of British Columbia.

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