Two French counter-terrorism judges have issued, for the sixth time, a release order in the case of extradited Canadian Hassan Diab, being held in France in connection with a deadly bomb attack in Paris. And once again, his supporters in Canada are calling on the Liberal government to demand his return.
Diab, a former University of Ottawa sociology professor, was extradited to France in 2014 on charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and destruction of property with an explosive or incendiary substance in connection with a 1980 synagogue bombing in Paris that killed four people.
Initially arrested in 2008, Diab has consistently maintained his innocence and has argued that he was in Lebanon at the time of the attack. French prosecutors say he built and placed the bomb used in the attack.
French judges have six times ordered Diab released on pre-trial bail since May 2016. The two who issued the release order on Monday agreed with Diab's defence team that there is "consistent evidence" he was not in France at the time of the bombing.
Each time, the French Court of Appeal has overturned the release orders. The latest order is being appealed by the prosecutor on the case.
"Dr. Diab's continued incarceration is wholly and manifestly unjust," said Don Bayne, who represents Diab's case in Canada, in a media release Tuesday. "It is past time for this government to come to the aid of a Canadian citizen, to end this travesty of justice, to bring him home. Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Freeland, where are you when an innocent Canadian needs you?"
The case has raised questions over the years because French police have relied on secret information, as well as handwriting analysis that experts have repeatedly suggested is not reliable.
Even before Diab was extradited, the Ontario Superior Court judge who heard his challenge said that the evidence presented by French police was "illogical," "very problematic" and "convoluted," but that — based on the Canadian threshold for extradition — there was no option but to hand Diab over.
The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his appeal shortly before Diab was extradited.
Supporters of Diab last month launched a petition asking the government to "work towards the immediate granting of bail to [Diab] and securing his urgent return to his family and home in Canada."
So far, 1,333 Canadians have signed the petition, which meets the threshold to force the government to issue an official response.
However, Canada does not use the U.K. model, which forces a parliamentary debate if an e-petition gathers more than 100,000 signatures.