Newly freed Hassan Diab, who spent more than three years locked up in France on suspicion of murder, is calling for changes to Canada’s “lousy” extradition law.
The Ottawa sociology professor’s supporters rallied around him Wednesday, urging the federal government to hold a public inquiry into the case and to reform the Extradition Act to ensure individual rights are respected.
Diab, 64, expressed relief at being back in Canada with his wife Rania and their young children.
“Justice has finally prevailed,” he told a news conference hosted by Amnesty International Canada. “Miracles can happen.”
Diab is settling back into life at home. But he said his main mission will be seeking changes to the extradition law, as well as assisting people who have experienced miscarriages of justice.
A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
French authorities suspected Diab was involved in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people and injured dozens of others, an accusation he has always denied.
The RCMP arrested Diab, a Canadian of Lebanese descent, in November 2008 in response to a request by France.
In June 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger committed Diab for extradition despite acknowledging the case against him was weak.
The following year, then-justice minister Rob Nicholson signed an extradition order surrendering Diab to France.
The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the decisions of the lower court and the minister, and the Supreme Court of Canada declined to review the matter.
Diab’s supporters have long argued he was in Beirut when the attack took place, not Paris, and that his fingerprints, palm prints, physical description and age did not match those of the suspect identified in 1980.
In November 2014, Diab was sent to France, where he was held in solitary confinement up to 22 hours a day.
“In those dark moments, at night, you are alone, you don’t know what’s going on,” he said, calling it a form of torture.
Several French judges ordered his conditional release on various occasions over the years, but each time the order was overturned by the courts.
Last week, judges dismissed the allegations against Diab and ordered his immediate release.
In many respects what Diab has gone through “is the very definition of the word Kafkaesque,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty Canada.
Diab’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, said Canada never should have extradited his client given that France did not have a case fit to go to trial. “We turned him over for a foreign investigation, not a foreign trial.”
Bayne said he would like to see a “reasoned evaluation of the deficiencies” of the extradition law with the aim of making improvements so that ”injustices like this don’t happen on our watch.”
He cautioned that the case against Diab is not fully closed due to a pending appeal in France. “It’s not over, but we’d like to hope and believe it really is over.”
There has been no discussion of suing Canada over Diab’s case, Bayne added.
For his part, Diab insisted he does not want financial compensation from the Canadian government, just changes to ensure no one else goes through what he has endured.
Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press