Canada is weighing its next steps after a Paris court convicted a Lebanese-Canadian in absentia for the 1980 bombing of a synagogue in the French capital, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.
“We will look carefully at next steps, at what the French government chooses to do, at what French tribunals choose to do,” Trudeau told a news conference. “[But] we will always be there to stand up for Canadians and their rights.”
Hassan Diab, 69, a resident of Canada who received citizenship in 1993, faces life in prison in France. He wants Ottawa to reject requests for his extradition.
Diab told reporters in Ottawa that the verdict was “Kafkaesque” and “not fair,” adding, “We’d hoped reason would prevail.”
He urged Trudeau to honor a past statement about the case, “which appeared to pour cold water on ever sending Diab back to France, after the first extradition took six years,” AFP reported.
In 2014, Canada extradited Diab at the request of the French authorities on the basis of new evidence.
However, investigating judges said they were unable to prove him guilty conclusively and Diab was released, leaving France for Canada as a free man in 2018.
Trudeau at the time welcomed France’s release of Diab, telling reporters in June of that year: “I think for Hassan Diab we have to recognize first of all that what happened to him never should have happened.”
He also ordered a review of Canada’s extradition law to “make sure that it never happens again.”
On Oct. 3, 1980, someone planted a bomb outside a Paris synagogue as 320 Jews gathered to celebrate Simchat Torah. The explosion killed four people and wounded 46 others. It was the first deadly attack against Jews in France since World War II.
No group claimed responsibility and the crime remained unsolved.
French detectives believe that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was responsible.
A primary piece of evidence was a handwriting sample that prosecutors call a “smoking gun” linking Diab to the bomber.
Diab’s lawyers, however, say the sample was improperly analyzed, and judges have also questioned its reliability.
“The evidence shows he’s innocent and yet they’ve convicted him,” Diab’s Canadian lawyer Donald Bayne said. “It’s a political result. It’s a wrongful conviction.”
Diab has denied any involvement in the attack, claiming he was taking exams in Lebanon at the time.
David Pere, a lawyer for some of the Jewish worshipers present in the synagogue at the time of the bombing, said his clients were “not motivated by vengeance nor looking for a guilty person’s head to stick on a pike…. they want justice to be done.”