Hassan Diab has been convicted in absentia by a Paris court for his alleged role in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
A university professor with dual Lebanese-Canadian citizenship, Hassan Diab, has been found guilty in his absence of orchestrating a bomb attack on a Paris synagogue over 40 years ago. The bombing, which occurred outside the Copernic synagogue during a worship service, resulted in the deaths of four individuals and the injury of 46 others. Diab is the only person to have been accused of involvement in the attack. Despite being absent during the trial, he has been sentenced to life imprisonment, and an arrest warrant has been issued for his detention.
Diab, who currently resides in Canada, did not appear in court for the trial in Paris. His legal team asserted that he was wrongfully accused due to mistaken identity. It remains uncertain if a new extradition process for Diab would be successful and what impact it would have on the diplomatic relations between Canada and France.
Throughout the three-week Paris trial, there were tense moments as a chair remained empty, symbolizing the absence of Diab. State prosecutors dealing with anti-terrorism cases pushed for the harshest possible sentence, asserting that there was unequivocal proof of Diab’s guilt. Meanwhile, Diab’s defence team sought his acquittal, emphasizing the need to prevent a judicial mistake.
The bombing that took place outside the Copernic synagogue on 3 October 1980 was the first lethal attack on France’s Jewish community since the Nazi occupation during the Second World War. The explosive device, containing 10kg of explosives, was placed in the saddlebags of a rented motorcycle parked outside the synagogue. The explosion caused the synagogue’s glass roof to collapse on the worshipers who were celebrating Shabbat and the bar mitzvah of three boys and the bat mitzvah of two girls. The force of the blast knocked down a door of the synagogue and shattered storefronts along a 150-meter stretch of road. The attack was planned to coincide with the departure of people from the synagogue, but a greater tragedy was prevented because the ceremonies were delayed by 15 minutes.
The bombing killed three bystanders, and a hotel concierge across from the synagogue died of his injuries in the hospital two days later. The attack was carried out with the intention of targeting those leaving the synagogue.
The attack on the Paris synagogue, which killed four people and injured 46 others, was never claimed by any group. However, after a long-running police investigation, it was concluded that Palestinian nationalists were responsible for the attack.
Hassan Diab, a sociology professor in Ottawa, was arrested in Canada in 2008 and extradited to France in 2014 to face charges of murder. He reportedly matched a photofit of the suspected bomber. French prosecutors claimed he was a member of the special operations branch of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Despite being released several times due to a lack of evidence, Diab spent three years in prison in France, some in solitary confinement, awaiting trial. He was finally released in 2018 and allowed to return to Canada, but in 2021 a higher French court ordered him to stand trial.
During the three-week trial in Paris, the prosecution argued that a passport found almost 20 years after the attack, showing entry and exit to Spain, was “extremely incriminating”. Diab’s defense team argued that there was no material evidence to prove that Diab was in France at the time, as he was sitting exams at a university in Lebanon.
The trial was marked by heated exchanges, with the prosecution calling for a maximum sentence and the defense arguing for Diab’s acquittal. Tensions between Canada and France could arise if a new extradition procedure is pursued.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN