Nicholson delays Diab extradition on terror bombing

Written by Chris Cobb Thursday, 22 March 2012
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Justice minister's decision held up due to 'new assessment of French case'


Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has delayed for a second time a decision on whether to extradite former University of Ottawa professor Hassan Diab.


Diab, wanted by France in connection with a 1980 terrorist bombing of a Paris synagogue, was committed for extradition last summer by an Ottawa judge.


Nicholson was due to release his decision by the end of February but Diab's lawyer, Donald Bayne, said then that the minister had asked for another month because of "new material and new assessment of the French case" against Diab.


Bayne had no comment on the latest delay but did confirm that the minister's office had asked for a postponement of his decision to April 18.


It isn't clear why the decision has been postponed again and the minister's office refuses to discuss details of the case.


As in all extraditions involving Canadian citizens, the justice minister will decide whether to surrender the Lebanese-born Diab.


Diab, 57, was arrested during a dramatic raid on his apartment by a special RC-MP anti-terrorist squad and spent several months in jail before being released on bail conditions that amount to house arrest.


Diab, claiming mistaken identity, has denied any involvement in the bombing that killed four passersby and injured dozens of others.


The case against the academic hinges on controversial French handwriting evidence that three internationally recognized forensic handwriting analysts, called by Bayne to testify at last year's extradition hearing, unanimously condemned as deeply flawed.


Justice Robert Maranger, the extradition judge, said the low legal threshold of Canadian extradition law left him no choice but to commit Diab on the basis of the handwriting evidence, but in comments that surprised many, added that the French case would likely be too weak to convict Diab if he were tried in Canada.


The Diab case has thrown a rare spotlight on Canada's extradition law, which critics say sub-standard and unconstitutional.


Canada's extradition treaty with France is seen as especially troublesome because it is one of several that is not reciprocal. France does not extradite its citizens.

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