Former Carleton professor Hassan Diab to remain jailed in France

Hassan Diab, a former Carleton contract professor, will remain in French jail to be investigated for terrorism after a judge’s order for his release was overturned for the sixth time.

On April 24, one of the French judges investigating the case recommended Diab be released from prison on the grounds there is not enough evidence against him. Despite this, on May 2 it was announced that for the sixth time in two and a half years, the prosecutor had successfully argued against him being released.

Diab, who was also a professor at the University of Ottawa, was arrested in Canada in 2008 in connection with a 1980 Paris synagogue bombing. He was extradited to France in 2014 but has not been charged.

Evidence in the case rests on controversial handwriting analysis from a hotel registration card Diab allegedly signed. During his extradition hearing in Canada, the judge called the analysis into question, saying it was problematic. There is also secret intelligence against Diab that has not been revealed in court.

The prosecutor in the case has appealed Diab’s release each time over the past two years by arguing he is a flight risk and it is a threat to public order. Donald Bayne, Diab’s lawyer in Canada, questioned this.

“There’s no evidence to support that,” Bayne said at a press conference. “Moreover, he was released for 12 days in Paris . . . without incident, observing all conditions of bail. There’s no merit whatsoever to the allegation that he’s a flight risk.”

“How could the release of an innocent man, that their own investigators are telling them is innocent, threaten to cause public disorder in France? It’s mind boggling,” Bayne said.

According to Bayne, there is evidence that Diab was in Beirut studying for university exams at the time of the synagogue bombing, not France.

At a press conference on April 27, Bayne and supporters of Diab called for the federal government to intervene on a high level to secure Diab’s release. A Parliamentary petition for the case has also been created, and as of publication has received just under 1,500 signatures.

Rania Tfaily, Diab’s wife and also a professor at Carleton, called on the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs to intervene in the case.

“I know that your lives are very far from ours but I would like you to imagine, just for a second, what it feels like to be deprived of one’s children year after year and to long to just hold them,” she said at the press conference. “I ask and beg you to put an end to this nightmare.”

She said Diab is in solitary confinement in France for 22 hours each day and rarely has visitors.

“I don’t understand why our government is content to leave an innocent Canadian citizen locked up in jail day after day,” she said.

In a statement to the Ottawa Citizen, Global Affairs Canada said it is “closely monitoring the case of Hassan Diab in France and officials are providing him with consular services.”

The statement said the government has met with members of the Hassan Diab Support Group but further information cannot be divulged in the interest of privacy.

The Hassan Diab Support Group has said it will continue to pressure the government to act on the case and wait for the next judicial recommendation that Diab be released.

-Photo by Drew May