Professor Hassan Diab: Unjustly Victimized
by Stephen Lendman
Depending on how events unfold, the case of former University of Ottawa and Carleton University Professor Hassan Diab is more disturbing and shocking. A November 13, 2008 Ottawa Citizen article explained, headlining:
"Ottawa university instructor arrested in 1980 blast at Paris synagogue," saying:
The October 3, 1980 Union Liberale Israelite de France incident killed four, injured dozens, and was followed by similar attacks in Vienna, Antwerp, Belgium, and elsewhere.
On November 13, 2008, Diab "was arrested by the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) at Gatineau residence....as he was getting dressed, placed in custody at the RCMP's A division," and for over four months, denied bail, his lawyer, Rene Duval, said at the time. He now lives under virtual house arrest, wears a GPS electronic ankle monitor, and can only leave home accompanied by one of five sureties who posted his $250,000 + bond.
His apprehension followed an international arrest warrant issued by two French judges earlier in November, "believed to be the first such (instance) for (alleged) terrorism ever executed in Canada."
With no corroborating evidence, France's Le Figaro newspaper cited unnamed 2007 sources, saying Diab led "the small commando team responsible for the attack and had asked Canada for assistance with their investigation."
In mid-November 2008, the French magazine L'Express said French police, magistrates and intelligence officers were in Canada, "try(ing) to arrange Mr. Diab's extradition to France. The French warrant....accuse(d) him of making and planting the bomb, according to" a Reuters report.
At the time, Diab explained through his lawyer that he had no involvement in the incident. "Most definitely he's innocent," he said. "He didn't even set foot in France in 1980. At the time, he was studying sociology at the University of Lebanon." A former Canadian Human Rights Commission senior litigator, Duval said Diab is accused of "driv(ing) the motorbike that eventually exploded."
Moreover, he has no criminal record and was never involved with the accused group or other militant organizations. In fact, he was unaware of the bombing until a Le Figaro reporter told him at the University of Ottawa.
In October 2007, Diab told Le Figaro:
"I am a victim of mistaken identity not based on anything" but unjust conjecture. "I have never belonged to a Palestinian organization, nor have I been militant politically. Because of such mistaken identities, my travel in Canada was often affected."
He also explained how often he's mistaken for others with the same name, adding:
"Since (9/11), we know that files are created on nothing, particularly if you are a member of a minority, and that innocent people will admit to anything if they are put under pressure."
After the news broke, he began noticing unidentified (RCMP) agents following him, and once someone tried breaking into his home. Despite notifying Ottawa police, intimidation and intrusive surveillance persisted. Nonetheless, at the time, he continued his normal activities, including teaching, but not for long.
Ahead of his first court hearing, Duval explained:
"They're going to be multiplying security measures, which are absolutely unwarranted and uncalled for. I suspect that will be the case. They like to make it a big deal. The word terrorist (frightens) a lot of people. And governments in Canada, France or (elsewhere), they like to show their muscle in those matters," even with no evidence against innocent victims. Too often, in fact, they're judged guilty by accusation.
Diab was Professor of Sociology at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. A Lebanese national with dual citizenship, he first taught at the American University of Beirut, later earning his doctorate at Syracuse University, New York.
His Background and Case
The web site Justice for Hassan Diab.org can be accessed through the following link for detailed information about him and his case:
Until October 2007, he "enjoyed and engaged in a productive public life, including teaching, publishing research, and traveling internationally." Now he's falsely accused of the 1980 Paris synagogue bombing. In fact, he's innocent of all charges, is peace-loving, and not anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish, or against any other religion or ethnicity.
On November 8, 2010, he released the following statement:
"I am innocent of the charges against me. I condemn all ethnically, racially, and religiously motivated violence. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the presumption of innocence and other core values of our legal system have eroded, especially for people from particular minority backgrounds. I hope this extradition hearing will end the witch-hunt atmosphere I have been living under for the past three years, and that no one else will have to endure the burden of false, unfounded accusations. I also wish to thank the many people and groups across Canada who have signed a statement in my support."
Nonetheless, both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University terminated him, violating his presumption of innocence unless proved guilty, and the "responsibility of a university to protect its autonomy (and academic freedom) from inappropriate political pressure." As a result, Diab is unemployed, and delay in resolving his case adds "thousands of dollars to his legal expenses."
His web site also explains the following:
-- alleged evidence against him is "bald, unsourced and conclusory intelligence information" that's inadmissible in Canadian criminal courts; and
-- its reliability is very suspect, yet his defense can't "confront or cross-examine witnesses," so is unable to "demonstrate weaknesses or inaccuracies" nor "argue against false claims."
As a result, he's "in a double-bind," unable to challenge his accusers because an extradition case isn't a trial. Moreover, in France, he'll face unsubstantiated charges based on secret intelligence, again severely restricting his ability to refute it. In fact, any defense effort "to cross-examine witnesses or (present) exonerating evidence will be looked upon unfavorably by the court" because "neither Canadian nor French judges and prosecutors know the sources of the intelligence information" so can't examine their credibility or lack thereof.
In other words, he'll be hung out to dry under a rigged process to convict, despite his innocence. As a result, human rights and other groups criticized France "for violating internationally recognized due process standards and for running unfair trials."
It's believed alleged evidence in his case comes from torture-extracted confessions of suspects in Middle East custody, saying anything to stop pain and help improve their own status. Various other wrongfully accused victims have been targeted the same way, authorities knowing alleged evidence against them was false but used it anyway.
Nonetheless, Canada's Crown Attorney seems willing to accept dubious secret intelligence to extradite an innocent Canadian citizen. If so, a dangerous legal precedent will be established based on unreliable, uncorroborated, and likely spurious evidence manipulated to convict.
In December 2009, Amnesty International lawyer Paul Champ said:
"If the Canadian government and the French government are able to rely on this kind of intelligence information to support an extradition, I think it's yet another step in the erosion of civil liberties that we've been familiar with in Canada and in other countries for a very long time."
In fact, far too long, so-called Western and other democracies, including Canada, France, Israel and America, are de facto police states, regularly convicting innocent victims by accusations, especially Muslims for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, activism, and at times charitable giving because they care.
As a result, Hassan Diab is one of many needing broad support to free him from this unprincipled burden so he can resume a normal life.
Recent Ottawa Citizen Articles on His Case
On November 24, 2010, writer Andrew Seymour headlined, "Terrorism evidence against former Ottawa professor 'unreliable,' court hears," saying:
University of Toronto Law Professor and anti-terrorism expert Kent Roach testified it was "dangerous" to use alleged 30-year old intelligence, calling it "unsourced, uncircumstanced," and/or manipulated to benefit prosecutorial accusations. He added that aspects of this case set off "alarm bells" based on suspect intelligence that Diab either used his own passport to enter France through Spain or surreptitiously with a fake one, saying:
"It would suggest to me the intelligence record is unreliable because it is malleable enough to fit any or both scenarios. Because it is not sourced, because it is not circumstanced, it is very difficult to go behind their suppositions and to challenge their intelligence," that may, in fact, be fake. He added that:
"It is easy to assert someone is a member of a terrorist organization. It is an entirely different matter to prove it through evidence....At first glance you say, 'This is terrible, this is very, very specific,' but there's nothing there to substantiate it."
Accusing French authorities of "boot-strapping," Roach said they've linked one unreliable piece of intelligence to another, "cherry picking" what they want, ignoring what can help Diab to construct a case basely solely from whole cloth, not verifiable facts.
On January 5, 2011, Chris Cobb headlined, "Expert rips into handwriting evidence," saying:
During Diab's January 4 extradition hearing, "(a) British handwriting expert (Robert Radley) ripped into French evidence, saying its main conclusions are 'frankly absurd - totally misguided and totally incorrect.' I find this whole (analysis) unacceptable and not what I would expect from a trained, competent expert."
At the same, French expert Ann Bisotti called her analysis the case's "smoking gun," claiming a false name on a Paris hotel registration card was in Diab's handwriting by comparing it to his 15-year later immigration paper signatures.
Defense lawyer Donald Bayne used three experts to refute Bisotti's analysis, calling it "fatally flawed," showing ignorance of international professional standards. Radley's "blistering criticism" was especially damning, given his over three decade European and other international experience and familiarity with the European Network of Forensic Handwriting Experts (ENFHEX). He said Bisotti's methodology contradicted its standards, thus invalidating her conclusion, then added:
"In over 30 years dealing with casework and having to produce critiques on literally hundreds of police laboratory reports, I have never had to express criticism in such robust terms."
Hired by French authorities to prove the alleged authenticity of Diab's hotel registry signature, Bisotti apparently concluded what her client wanted to hear, no matter how unjustifiably false.
On February 19, Andrew Seymour headlined, "Diab loses evidence fight," saying:
Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger "decided to allow handwriting evidence....against" him despite saying:
"When all is said and done, I find the evidence amounted to very strong competing inferences which demonstrate some serious weaknesses in the Bisotti report, but in truth fell short of a finding of manifest unreliability. While I find (her) report very problematic, very confusing, with conclusions that are suspect, I cannot say that it should be rejected out of hand based on the expert evidence."
Clearly unidentified pressure on him was exerted, evidenced by his agreeing with Diab's lawyer's "forceful and compelling" arguments (that) flawed methodology results in manifestly unreliable conclusions."
Yet he allowed them anyway, dealing Diab a serious blow. Expressing muted outrage, Donald Bayne noted special concern, saying France doesn't extradite its nationals, "but Canada will (do it) on unreliable evidence because the test for unreliability is so high no one can meet it." He added that if Diab is ordered extradited, he'll appeal to Canada's Supreme Court, hoping there to get justice.
On March 8, Chris Cobb headlined, "Crown wraps up case against Diab," saying:
Prosecutor Claude LeFrancois alleged "Diab belonged to an international anti-Semitic terrorist organization embroiled in a violent underworld of lies and deception." He named the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a heroic resistance group opposing Israel's illegal occupation, struggling for Palestinian liberation.
Of course, as explained above, Diab, maintains his innocence on all charges, asserts his egalitarian views, and strongly denies membership or participation in any resistance or militant group.
On March 9, Chris Cobb headlined, "No proven link to Diab, lawyer argues," saying:
Defense lawyer Bayne "launched a blistering attack (on) the French extradition evidence against" Diab, urging Justice Maranger to dismiss all charges that would be inadmissible in Canadian criminal proceedings.
In fact, the entire case against him is fabricated. No corroborating evidence links him to the synagogue bombing or that he belonged to any anti-Israeli group. However, unlike criminal proceeding requiring proof beyond a shadow of a doubt, extradition hearings only need show possible alleged evidence to warrant sending a Canadian citizen abroad to stand trial. In this case, though entirely innocent, to France where he'll be hung out to dry unjustly.
On March 10, Chris Cobb headlined, "Judge to rule in June on Diab extradition," saying:
Justice Maranger said he'll issue his decision on or about June 8, suggesting he'll "give relatively or no weight to supporting circumstantial evidence offered by the French."
Supportive Organizations for Diab
Many have been outspoken on his behalf, including the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), expressing grave concern about "the nature of the information being presented on behalf of France to try to justify its request."
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) called alleged evidence against Diab "manifestly unreliable," compromising his "section 7 Charter rights to life, liberty and security...."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada (CAIR CAN) asked "all Canadians to urge the Minister of Justice to intervene" on Diab's behalf to prevent likely gross injustice against him otherwise.
On November 23, 2010, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) wrote Canada's Minister of Justice and Attorney General Robert Nicholson calling possible torture-extracted evidence against him unreliable. "As such, it should not be admitted into nor relied upon in a Canadian extradition hearing," adding:
"We thus (urge an immediate) halt (to) extradition proceedings against Dr. Diab, unless and until reliable evidence" supports France's request. "(U)njust and oppressive extradition orders" must straightaway be denied.
Friends of Hassan Diab maintain a French and English language blog site on his behalf, accessed through the following link:
It has information on fundraisers, appeals for justice, as well as articles and other supportive information.
Numerous other groups signed a "Justice for Hassan Diab" statement, accessed below:
Anyone can join them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, saying you wish to sign.
Having exhausted his personal savings and unemployed, Diab also needs financial help for his "very expensive legal defense," besides a $2,000 per month GPS monitoring device cost. His Justice for Hassan Diab.org site has information on how to contribute.
He's a "victim of wrongful accusation" who'll be doubly denied justice if Canada extradites him to France to face proceedings rigged to convict and likely imprison him for life.
A Final Comment
Amid daily bad news, April 26 brought renewed hope to Mumia Abu-Jamal, wrongly sentenced to death for a 1981 murder he didn't commit.
Linn Washington Jr. explained, headlining "3rd Circuit Appeal Ruling Favoring Abu-Jamal Smacks Down US Supreme Court," saying:
The court upheld its over two year ago ruling, "siding with a federal district court judge who, back in 2001, had set aside Abu-Jamal's death penalty after determining" 1982 trial irregularities. The court complied with a Supreme Court ordered reexamination of its 2009 decision by affirming it a second time.
Mumia's lead attorney, Professor Judith Ritter, said:
"Each of the four federal judges (reviewing his case) found his death sentence to be unconstitutional. The Third Circuit's most recent opinion reflects a detailed analysis demonstrating that their unanimous decision is well-supported by Supreme Court precedent. We believe this carefully reasoned analysis will stand."
If so, it'll be a small victory amid a tsunami of social, economic and political injustice. In fact, a scandalous amount is caused by America at home and abroad, the self-proclaimed democratic values champion, failing dismally to back its rhetoric with principled policies on virtually all major issues mattering most. Increasingly, Canada hardly fares better.
Ottawa professor fights extradition for 1980 bomb attack in France
By Matthew Behrens
Like a number of Muslim men in Canada, Ottawa's Dr. Hassan Diab is forced to wear the ultimate symbol of state control: a GPS monitoring unit.
This tracking device, for which the impoverished and currently unemployed university professor was forced to pay $30,000 for the first year (and now $1,500 monthly), is permanently affixed to his leg, tracking his every move under strict house arrest.
Diab bears this burden because the French government, which is attempting to have him forcibly removed from Canada, accuses him of involvement in a 1980 synagogue bombing on Paris's rue Copernic that killed four people. But in an unprecedented move, his extradition is being sought on the basis of secret "intelligence," the source of which even French officials are unaware, with the possibility that it was extracted under torture.
Starting Monday, Nov. 8, Diab will appear in an Ottawa courtroom in an effort to end a Kafkaesque nightmare that began with his arrest two years ago. Jailed under Canada's notoriously weak extradition law, Diab endured over four months of detention before being transferred to draconian house arrest, only allowed to leave his residence with one of the five sureties who posted his $290,000 bail.
Because Hassan Diab is a common Middle Eastern name, Dr. Diab chose not to respond with alarm when, while working in 2007 as a University of Ottawa sociology professor, he was approached by a Le Figaro reporter asking him whether he knew French authorities were claiming he had been involved in the 1980 bombing.
But what Diab could not so easily dismiss were the unidentified individuals and vehicles that began following him, and the attempted break-in at his residence. Although he filed numerous reports with Ottawa police, the intensive surveillance (which he later found out was conducted by RCMP agents) continued, culminating in his 2008 arrest.
Since then, Diab has been involved in protracted court proceedings challenging weaknesses in the French case. It's been a frustrating process, in large measure due to the low threshold French authorities are required to meet in order to extradite him. Indeed, as Manitoba Judge Freda Steel wrote in a 1999 extradition case, "evidence at an extradition hearing should be accepted even if the judge feels it is manifestly unreliable, incomplete, false, misleading, contradictory of other evidence or the judge feels the witness may have perjured themselves."
Those subject to extradition under such maddening conditions are reassured that they can work things out in the requesting country after they have been uprooted from Canada and jailed overseas. But critics note such a process easily undermines human rights protections, including the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and persecution based on ethnicity or religion. "All too often," writes University of Alberta law professor Joanna Harrington, "extradition is seen as a matter of comity or respect for Canada's international relations, but without recognition that this respect should also extend to Canada's treaty engagements with the international community in the field of human rights."
Diab's supporters point out that even when pieces of evidence alleged to be "smoking guns" have been withdrawn from the case for what some experts have deemed "appalling unreliability," the case remarkably goes on, with the French cooking up new assertions that they try to mold in a manner that they fervently hope will stick.
Indeed, a 94-page factum filed by Diab's lawyer, Donald Bayne, declares the case is replete with "misrepresentations, overstatements, misstatements, omissions, inaccuracies and editing that create a misleading, incomplete, unreliable and unfair Record of the Case."
The Ontario Superior Court judge presiding over the extradition on Nov. 8 will hear about a litany of problems, including the fact that Diab's finger and palm prints do not match those offered by the French.
In addition, key pieces of evidence appear to have been tampered with, possibly amounting to fraud, and information that would exonerate Diab has been buried in the record, with lawyers representing the Canadian government having argued the French are under no obligation to present information in their hands that would cast a positive light on Dr. Diab.
Indeed, French documents cited by Bayne state Diab's only potential link to this case is "incidental" because, in a remarkable leap of illogic, that common name happened to be in the phone book of an individual who was interrogated, but never charged, in a case completely unrelated to the 1980 bombing. They also concede that Diab was "not known to be part of any" terrorist group.
Despite what would appear to be an open-and-shut case in Diab's favour, the French have refused to correct any misrepresentations, contradictions, and inaccuracies in their alleged case, despite having had 10 months to do so.
But why? Perhaps, given a war-on-terror climate that automatically assumes guilt when a Muslim is suspect, bedrock rule-of-law details fall prey to fear and profiling. That's certainly the case in the French context. Internationally respected Human Rights Watch has produced two separate reports condemning the French government's broadly defined and applied counterterrorism laws and procedures for failing to live up to fair trial standards. Equally of concern is the French judiciary's acceptance of evidence derived from torture.
Last month, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association wrote a letter to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson outlining its concerns that the use of the unsourced, secret French intelligence in the Diab case, possibly derived from torture, "would put this country in breach of the universal prohibition against torture."
With his life in limbo, Diab will enter the Ottawa Courthouse Nov. 8 hoping the rule of law prevails, and that, even with the low extradition standards, the sheer weight of the facts will tilt the case in his favour. But he and supporters are not resting easy. They are asking that individuals and groups across Canada add their name to a statement calling for his extradition to be stopped and for the process to be brought in line with Canada's human rights obligations. That statement, and further background can be found here.
Matthew Behrens is an Ontario social justice advocate and freelance writer.
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