Will Canada extradite terror accused to France 33 years after the act?

Hassan Diab
Hassan Diab

Canadian Crown attorneys on Tuesday defended key handwriting evidence that led to a decision to extradite a Canadian university professor accused of a deadly 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue.

Hassan Diab is appealing the 2011 court decision and the Canadian government’s order to extradite the former University of Ottawa sociologist to France, despite the court’s concerns that the case was “weak.”

Diab denies any involvement in the first fatal attack against the French Jewish community since the Nazi occupation in World War II, which left four dead and many wounded.

A dozen or so Diab supporters returned for the second day of the hearing, where the Crown defended Justice Robert Maranger’s decision to allow the handwriting analysis report by Anne Bisotti in the original extradition hearing.

On Monday, defense lawyers worked to discredit Bisotti’s findings — that Diab likely signed a Paris hotel slip under a false identity (Alexander Panadriyu), which was also used to purchase a motorcycle used in the bombing — by saying she failed to use the proper methodology.

But Crown lawyer Janet Henchey said that it is not the job of the extradition judge to establish reliability of the evidence, and that French courts should be relied upon to do the due diligence on the report at a formal trial.

“It may not feel right at first, but that’s because you’re looking at it from the perspective of a Canadian trial. This is not a Canadian trial,” she said.

“There may be safeguards that do not look like ours, but… it’s arrogant for us as a country to think that only our trial process can provide safeguards that are required for due process.”

Henchey also said that the defense never questioned the samples of writing themselves, but rather focused only on whether the methodology was applied correctly, and added that in part, “expense and convenience” are considerations in an extradition case.

Crown attorney Jeffrey Johnston also defended then-justice minister’s Rob Nicholson’s decision not to seek assurances with regards to the origins of the unsourced foreign intelligence that helped link Diab to the bombing.

Johnston said that second-guessing the foreign intelligence would make it appear that Canada was defying the “reciprocity upon which extradition depends.”

Johnston compared Diab’s case to other much-publicized extradition cases, including that of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, on allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.

Assange, who was living in Britain at the time, had to make a first appearance in court before any charges could be laid or a trial could be set, but Britain eventually ordered his extradition, deciding it was “consistent with the commencement of criminal prosecution,” said Johnston.

The Crown also targeted the defense’s suggestion that the unsourced intelligence was attained through torture and information-sharing deals with Syria. Johnston referred to it as “speculation” and said there were no “reasonable grounds” to suspect it.

At the close of the hearing, Diab lawyer Marlys Edwardh reiterated that there were inconsistencies with witness descriptions of the suspect –hair colour and height among them. She also reinforced the view that Nicholson had shirked his duty in not seeking out more information about the source of France’s intelligence.

“When the minister realizes that… (Diab) is going to be sent to stand trial on evidence from foreign intelligence agencies that will remain untouchable, and its sources will remain unknowable, we know that violates the principles of justice.” – AFP