A French court on Friday freed a suspect in a 1980 Paris synagogue bombing that killed four people and injured 41. The release of the suspect, Hassan Diab, a Lebanese-born Canadian professor, was ordered after the court found insufficient evidence to convict him of involvement in the attack.
The prosecution in the case, as well as lawyers for the victims, one of whom was an Israel citizen, have announced that they would appeal the decision. In the interim, Diab is barred from leaving France.
Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based director of international relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who also witnessed the attack at the synagogue on Paris' Rue Copernic, protested Diab's release in a letter to the French Foreign Ministry. In it, Samuels said decision could become "a celebration of terrorism" that would turn Diab into a hero.
Diab, a 64-year-old sociology professor, was extradited from Canada to France in 2014 on suspicions that he was behind the 1980 terrorist attack. He was arrested in Canada six years before his extradition after a French investigation raised suspicions that he had been a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was thought to be responsible for the attack.
Diab has denied any involvement, saying that he was in Lebanon at the time and that the French authorities had confused him with someone else. He had been held in detention for the past three years prior to his release on Friday.
The attack occurred on the Jewish holiday of Simhat Torah. Explosives were hidden in the saddlebags of a motorcycle parked at the entrance to the synagogue in Paris' 16th arrondissement. The Israeli killed in the attack, Aliza Shagrir, a film editor for Israeli television, was walking by the synagogue on her way to the home of Israeli journalist Tamar Golan at the time of the blast.
Aliza Shagrir's son Hagai had called Diab's trial in France "delayed justice." He has said in the past that he was convinced that Diab was responsible for the attack.