“Justice for Hassan Diab: A Webcomic” by Anne Dagenais is available at iclmg.ca/diab-webcomic
by Kieran Delamont
Hassan Diab, the Carleton sociology lecturer who was extradited from Canada to France on contested — and ultimately vacated — terrorism charges in 2011, is suing the federal government in civil court, seeking $90 million in damages.
Diab was extradited in 2014, after being arrested at the request of French police in 2008, who accused him of involvement in the 1980 bombing of a synagogue in Paris. Under Canadian extradition law, the accused cannot call evidence in their defence. And despite extradition judge Robert Maranger’s conclusion that the evidence against Diab seemed “illogical” and “convoluted, very confusing, with conclusions that are suspect,” Diab was extradited by the Harper government of the time.
Diab spent more than three years in a French jail before being cleared of any involvement. Similar to Marganger, the French investigative judges found the unsourced intelligence used to accuse Diab was “full of contradictions and inaccuracies,” and that there was “consistent evidence” Diab was in Lebanon at the time of the Paris bombing. He returned to Canada in 2018.
“It’s about justice, it’s about correcting the wrong things.”
“Despite having evidence showing I was not involved, Canadian authorities made the decision to extradite me,” Diab said, at a recent press conference. “Since my release in 2018, we have called for a public inquiry into my case, and the government has said no. We’ve called for reforms to Canada’s extradition law, and the government has taken no meaningful action.”
In addition to the time spent in prison — much of which was spent in solitary confinement — and the RCMP surveillance he was put under, Diab says he has suffered from anxiety, depression, and severe insomnia.
“My ordeal could have been prevented,” Diab said.
Diab is accusing Department of Justice lawyers, as well as Stephen Harper’s justice minister Rob Nicholson, of malicious prosecution and breaching his charter rights, causing emotional distress for both him and his family.
The case has become clearer as a story of a prosecutorial boondoggle. At virtually every step of a convoluted investigation, exculpatory evidence seemed to be lost in communication between Canadian and French police — or even deliberately concealed.
In 2018, the CBC reported that French officials sat on a fingerprint that would have cleared Diab and claimed to Canadian officials that it never existed. Meanwhile, a Department of Justice lawyer sent a confidential memo to French officials with an urgent request for another handwriting analysis when the case against Diab seemed about to collapse. The lawyer, Claude LeFrançois, then obtained long delays in the extradition trial so that the analysis could be produced, while assuring the judge he had knowledge of what France was up to.
LeFrançois works for a specialized division of Canada’s Department of Justice known as the International Assistance Group. According to the CBC, a Department of Justice spokesperson said it is “normal practice for Canadian government lawyers like LeFrançois to provide extradition-requesting states such as France with advice on how to strengthen their case.”
Readers of this article spooked that our government has high-paid lawyers working to assist foreign governments that want to extradite Canadian citizens need not fear, however. An independent review of Diab’s extradition, completed for the minister of justice, concluded that the department’s lawyers broke no rules and “acted in a manner that was ethical and consistent.”
Diab disagrees. “It’s about justice, it’s about correcting the wrong things,” says Diab. “We’ve tried all other avenues. We’ve asked for a public inquiry — nothing was done. We asked to reform extradition laws — nothing was done. We were left with nothing but to seek justice through legal ways.”
Diab’s long-time lawyer Guy Pratte added, “Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Freeland at the time both said they thought this was a tragic case, a mistake, and we hope there are ways not to renew them.” He said that Diab and his family are hoping to sit down with the federal government in mediation negotiations, with an eye to settling the case outside of the courts.