The Canadian government must step up its efforts to help free a former Ottawa professor being held on charges related to a decades-old bombing in France that killed four people, his lawyer says.
Hassan Diab was extradited to France two-and-a-half years ago and is currently behind bars on first-degree murder charges in connection with the 1980 Paris synagogue terror attack — even as French judges once again repeated their call this week for the former sociology instructor to be released.
"It's time for the Canadian government to bring this man home. France has sent many, many signals about the man's innocence," said Donald Bayne, who fought against Diab's extradition.
French authorities have alleged that Diab both made and planted the bomb — which, in addition to causing four deaths, also injured dozens more — arguing his handwriting matched five words written by a suspect.
The RCMP arrested Diab, a Canadian of Lebanese descent, in 2008 following a request by France. He was extradited in late 2014 after the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his appeal.
Bayne told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Wednesday that the French judges who handled the investigation — the practice in France — have repeatedly ordered Diab's release on the basis of "corroborated and consistent evidence of innocence."
Last October, one of those judges ordered that Diab be granted bail, on the basis of evidence suggesting he was actually in Lebanon prior to the bombing, a fact that would call his involvement in the bombing into question.
However, appeal courts have routinely quashed those orders, said Bayne, claiming Diab represents both a threat to public safety and a possible flight risk.
Don Bayne on Hassan Diab
'Paranoid' justice system
The refusal to release Diab is a sign of the current "paranoid" political climate in France, which has recently been beset by a "paroxysm of terrorist attacks," Bayne said Thursday.
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"This isn't an issue of timing. This is an issue of manifest injustice," Bayne said. "It's not playing politics. It's about a man's right to be free."
Bayne said the repeated calls by French judges to free Diab, the most recent of which came Monday, give Canada the perfect reason to strengthen their demand for the Ottawa man's release.
"They are buttressed now by these repeated orders by the investigators. I mean, that's political cover for this government," Bayne said.
"The government hasn't lifted a finger [to help Diab], so they're looking for something to act on."