Paris court rules Lebanese man accused of 1980 synagogue bombing to stand trial

Judges overturn decision to dismiss case, will prosecute academic Hassan Diab, who claims he was in Beirut at time of Paris attack that killed four

File: Hassan Diab holds a press conference at Amnesty International Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, following his return to Canada, on January 17, 2018. (Lars Hagberg / AFP)
File: Hassan Diab holds a press conference at Amnesty International Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, following his return to Canada, on January 17, 2018. (Lars Hagberg / AFP)

PARIS — France’s highest court on Wednesday upheld an order that a Lebanese-Canadian academic, who has spent years fighting claims of involvement in the bombing of a Paris synagogue, stand trial four decades after the attack.

Four people were killed and 46 injured in the October 3, 1980, attack on a synagogue on Copernic street in Paris — the first fatal attack on Jews in France since the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Hassan Diab, 67, is accused of planting the bomb. He has always denied any involvement.

He was extradited from Canada to France in 2014, but was released in 2018 and returned to Canada after French magistrates said the evidence against him was “not convincing enough” to hold him.

This file photo taken on October 3, 1980 on rue Copernic in Paris shows firemen standing by the wreckage of a car and motocycle after a bombing attack of the rue Copernic synagogue, resulting in the death of four people. (AFP/STF)

In a stunning about-turn in January 2021, the Paris appeals court overturned the decision to dismiss the case and ordered he stand trial.

Diab fought the decision to the Court of Cassation, France’s court of final appeal, which on Wednesday upheld the decision not to dismiss the case.

‘Parody of justice’

In a statement Wednesday, Diab’s Canadian lawyer, Don Bayne, called the ruling “a parody of justice” saying it showed “how political pressure is outweighing justice.”

At a news conference last week in Ottawa, Bayne and a group of human rights NGOs had called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to commit to not sending Diab back to France.

The synagogue on Copernic Street in a 2010 photograph (Mu / Wikipedia)

A former professor of sociology at the University of Ottawa, Diab is accused of planting explosives inside the saddlebag of a motorbike that exploded outside the synagogue close to the Champs-Elysees, where hundreds had gathered for Sabbath prayers.

Investigators blamed the attack on the Special Operations branch of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Diab said he was taking exams in Beirut at the time.

He spent a total of nine years either in jail or under strict bail conditions in Canada and France, awaiting trial.

After his release from French detention in 2018, he sued the Canadian government for extraditing him.

Evidence presented against him in France included a sketch of the bomber that resembled him and the discovery of a passport in his name with entry and exit stamps from Spain, where the bomber is believed to have fled.

French prosecutors admit to having “doubts” as to Diab’s whereabouts at the time of the bombing but insist that a trial be held to consider all the evidence.

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