Paris: Four people were killed and 46 others were injured in a bomb attack on a Paris synagogue more than 40 years ago, and a Lebanese-Canadian university professor has been found guilty in absentia of the crime.
Hassan Diab, 69, the lone suspect in the bombing outside the Copernic synagogue in 1980, when over 300 people were attending services, has been sentenced for life in his absence. An arrest warrant has also been issued, reports said.
Diab, who has generally avoided the media attention during the proceedings, told reporters on Friday that the decision was "Kafkaesque" and "unfair."
After participating in a vigil with supporters at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights monument in Ottawa, he remarked, "We'd hoped reason would prevail."
Where is Hassan Diab?
According to reports, he is still in Canada and skipped the trial in Paris. His defence team claimed he was the victim of identity theft. It is unclear how strained relations between Canada and France would become if a fresh extradition procedure for Diab were to be successful.
Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, declared that his nation would "look carefully at next steps" and keep an eye on what the French government decided to do.
He declared, "We will constantly be there to defend Canadians and their rights."
After French authorities freed Diab in 2018, Trudeau declared that Canada will be wary of any future extradition attempts.
"I think for Hassan Diab, we have to recognise first of all that what happened to him never should have happened," he said at the time.
The existing laws governing extradition are being examined by the Canadian government for possible revision.
Critics claim that these laws provide judges too little latitude. Within the nation, Diab's case is frequently viewed as evidence of the extradition laws as they currently stand failing.
Donald Bayne, Diab's attorney, referred to the decision as a "political result" and a "miscarriage of justice."
He declared, "The evidence proves he's innocent and yet they've found him guilty."
During some tense exchanges during the three-week trial in Paris, a chair was left unoccupied for Diab. There was "no possible doubt" that he was guilty, according to state anti-terrorist prosecutors, who requested a maximum prison sentence. To "avoid a judicial error," Diab's defence requested that he be declared innocent.
Since the Nazi occupation of France during World War II, the Jewish community had not been the target of a lethal attack until the bombing.
What happened outside Copernic synagogue in 1980?
On October 3, 1980, a device carrying 10 kg of explosive was left in the saddlebags of a rental motorbike that was parked outside the synagogue. While people were inside enjoying Shabbat, the barmitzvah of three boys, and the batmitzvah of two girls, the synagogue's glass ceiling collapsed on them. The power of the explosion caused shopfronts along 150 yards of road to break and a synagogue door to be blasted off.
Three bystanders were killed, and 48 hours later, the hotel concierge who worked across from the synagogue passed away from his wounds in the hospital. The attack was timed to hit people leaving the synagogue, and it was only because the rituals were running 15 minutes behind schedule that a greater catastrophe was prevented.
The attack, which was never claimed by any organisation, was planned by Palestinian nationalists, according to a protracted police inquiry.
According to reports, Diab, an Ottawa sociology professor, resembled the bomb suspect in a photo. He was detained in Canada in 2008 and extradited to France in 2014. There, he was imprisoned for three years—part of that time in solitary confinement—while he awaited a murder trial.
According to French authorities, he belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's special operations division, which was thought to be behind the attack.
The appeals court overturned each decision by a judge to free him on the grounds of purportedly insufficient evidence.
Finally freed in 2018 and permitted to return to Canada, Diab was ordered to stand trial by a higher French court in 2021.
The nearly 20-year-old passport that was found nearly after the attack, showing entry and exit to Spain, the location where a commando was thought to have planned the bombing, was a major focus of the three-week trial in Paris. The passport was "extremely incriminating," according to state prosecutors.
According to Diab's defense, there was insufficient evidence to show that the then-sociology student was in France at the time. His attorneys claimed that he was taking exams at a university in Lebanon and was therefore unable to use the passport, which he claimed to have misplaced.