Hassan Diab, the academic who returned to Ottawa Monday after spending three years in a French prison, could get his job back at Carleton University.
"If Hassan Diab wishes to resume teaching at Carleton, the university would be pleased to discuss the potential of a term appointment when one becomes available," Carleton said in a one-sentence response to a query from this newspaper.
But it's unclear what "potential of a term appointment" means in terms of a solid job offer. Asked if the university could answer more questions on the matter, a spokesman said Carleton had nothing to add.
Diab, 64, a Lebanese-born Canadian citizen, had held a contract position at Carleton when he was arrested by the RCMP in November 2008 after he was accused in France of killing four people and injuring dozens more in a 1980 Paris synagogue bombing.
Diab was under virtual house arrest, including the requirement to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, while working as a summer contract lecturer in sociology at Carleton in the summer of 2009. The hiring had been approved by administrators, but Diab was dismissed from his job, sparking a charged controversy over the role public pressure played in his removal.
Professors in the department of anthropology and sociology drafted a resolution, saying the university ignored its own procedures by terminating Diab and calling for his reinstatement. Diab's union, CUPE 4600, also filed a grievance. The Canadian Association of University Teachers also objected, saying the university had caved to external pressure.
Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B'nai Brith Canada, said at the time that it was "appalling" that university professors would lobby for the reinstatement of a professor alleged to have bombed a synagogue. "Can a rational Canadian citizen agree with the notion that their child is taught by a man who is charged with terrorist crimes?" he said.
Diab was extradited to France in November 2014 after a lengthy court battle. Last Friday, he walked out of a French prison after charges against him were dropped.
In an interview Thursday, Diab said he has no specific plans about taking up his academic career again, but he really enjoyed teaching.
"At one point, I would like to discuss this. Generally, I would like to teach again," said Diab, whose area of academic expertise is social inequity.
Diab said he was disappointed in the way he was dismissed by Carleton. He said he was delivering a lecture to his class when the letter of dismissal was dropped in his mailbox. "They did not come to tell me," he recalled.
Peter Gose, who was chairman of the department when Diab was dismissed, recalls that there was a lot of "sound and fury" from the administration about professors who supported Diab. Gose said the union grievance ended in arbitration, which concluded that the university had "bought out" Diab's contract, but that Diab should be given seniority for the course that he did not finish teaching when he was dismissed, as well as previous courses.
As more than eight years have passed, it's hard to tell how it would play out in terms of seniority if Diab were to apply for another contract teaching position at Carleton. Positions are advertised and the chair of the department reviews the applications and makes recommendations to the dean, said Gose.
"He was a good teacher," he said. "We would try to help him if he wanted to work with us again."
The Canadian Association of University Teachers still feels strongly that Carleton dismissed Diab without due process, said executive director David Robinson.
"Anyone who is accused of anything deserves a fair hearing. It's of concern to our members. We have members from around the world. The burden of proof is just so low. If it could happen to Diab, it could happen to anyone."
Meanwhile, Bernie Farber, who was CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress when Diab was accused of terrorism, said he regrets not speaking up sooner about ensuring that Diab get justice by Canadian standards. In 2008, when Diab was first arrested, the Canadian Jewish Congress said it was pleased that law enforcement authorities were "never giving up in the fight against terrorism."
In an interview, Farber said it took him far too long to come to grips with the real lack of evidence in Diab's case. "Charges were not substantiated in a French court," he said.
"It was a poor decision on our part. We didn't have all the information."