An eyewitness to the 1980 bombing of a synagogue in Paris has expressed outrage at the decision of the French judicial authorities to release Hassan Diab from prison after they dropped terrorism charges against the man allegedly behind the attack, due to lack of evidence.
Diab spent past 3 years in French prison awaiting trial after being extradited from Canada.
The Oct. 3, 1980, bombing of a synagogue on Rue Copernic in Paris killed four people and injured about 40. It was the first fatal attack against France's Jewish community since the Nazi occupation in World War II.
Hassan Diab spent past 3 years in French prison awaiting trial after being extradited from Canada.
Shimon Samuels, International Rrelations Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) told French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet in a letter that the release of the suspect by a Paris tribunal was "a body-blow for survivors and victims families."
Samuels recalled his presence on October 3, 1980, on the corner of rue Lauriston, 150 meters away from the explosion. He had just wished a "Happy Succoth" (Tabernacles) to Aliza Shagrir — wife of the Israeli filmmaker, Midna Shagrir — as she turned into rue Copernic, where she met her death as one of the four street victims of the bombing that also wounded 41 inside the destroyed building.
The following morning, then-Prime Minister Raymond Barre notoriously stated that "a bomb set for Jews killed four innocent Frenchmen."
"The bomb killed a Portuguese postman, a Chinese restaurant waiter, Aliza, and 'an innocent Frenchman,' wounding 41 worshippers inside the synagogue," corrected Samuels.
In 2010, Samuels was present at Diab's extradition hearings in Ottawa, Canada. Based on forensic evidence, Diab, who was arrested in Canada in November 2008, was finally extradited to France in 2014. Diab denied involvement, maintaining he had been in Lebanon at the time of the Copernic synagogue bombing.
"The repercussions of the ruling may become a celebration for terrorism with Hassan Diab glorified as a hero," Samuels wrote. "Madam Minister, we demand an appeal and the continued detention of Diab."
Diab, 64, a Lebanese-Canadian former professor of sociology at Ottawa University, is technically free to return to Canada, but he lacks the documents to leave the country and is working with the Canadian embassy to get the necessary paperwork to do so.
The latest release order is still subject to an appeal, and Canadian lawyer Donald Bayne says he's been advised by the French lawyers that "appeals are already in the works."