(Paris) Hassan Diab, a Canadian-Lebanese sociologist, will soon be set on his fate. Between April 3 and 21, he will be tried for an attack committed in Paris on October 3, 1980. He claims his innocence and will not be present at his trial, more than four decades after the events.
Absent. While facing life imprisonment, Hassan Diab will not answer questions from the Assize Court in Paris.
The Canadian-Lebanese sociology doctor, long professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, is accused of being the author of a bomb attack that left 4 dead and 46 injured on October 3, 1980, in Paris. Forty-three years after this terrorist attack, Hassan Diab is the only suspect that the French authorities have decided to prosecute. The investigation surrounding this attack was not easy to conduct.
Friday, October 3, 1980 was a holiday. At the synagogue of the Liberal Israelite Union of France, at 24, rue Copernic, in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, we celebrate the Simcha Torah. The faithful sing and dance around the sacred book.
Very quickly, the anti-Semitic aspect of the attack is pointed out. A few months earlier, on July 27, 1980, it was in Antwerp, Belgium, that this hatred was expressed. A man had thrown two grenades at a group of Jewish school children. A young boy had died. Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, was about to pass a law making Jerusalem “one and indivisible,” Israel’s capital.
In Antwerp as in Paris, the trail of an attack led by a Palestinian commando quickly emerged. It is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) that is at the center of attention. Neither the PFLP nor any other Palestinian armed organization has ever claimed responsibility for the Copernic Street attack.
In December 1980, the Germans informed the French services that “the individual who purchased the motorcycle on which the explosives had been placed was a Lebanese known in Beirut under the assumed name of AMER, but who is actually called HASSAN”.
In 1981, a man was arrested at Rome airport. Suspected of being a member of the PFLP, he travels with a passport that does not belong to him and which bears the name of Hassan Naim Diab, born in 1953 in Beirut.
For 18 years, the investigation barely progresses. In 1999, a new investigating judge, Marc Trévidic, inherited the case. This magistrate learns that Hassan Diab applied for a passport from the Lebanese authorities in May 1983, declaring his old document lost in April 1981.
Little by little, the name of this academic, who emigrated to the United States, then to Canada – of which he obtained nationality in 1993 – settled in the file. But he is not heard or indicted.
In 2007, Hassan Diab gave an interview to the French newspaper Le Figaro. He assures: “I am the victim of a new unfounded disambiguation. […] I said to the authorities: if you want to look for something, do it openly. »
French investigators amass elements that lead to the sociologist. They start from the purchase of the motorcycle in which the bomb was hidden. This was sold to a certain Alexander Panadriyu on September 23, 1980. The same man slept in a hotel not far from Copernic Street. There, he signed a registration form.
In the robot portraits of this man, the investigators believe they recognize the features of Hassan Diab. Above all, they rely on an analysis of the hotel file to compare this handwriting with that of their suspect number 1.
An expertise is carried out. She concludes that there is a similarity between the two writings. Hassan Diab firmly maintains that he was in Lebanon on the day of the attack.
On the basis of this expertise, among others, France officially requests the extradition of Hassan Diab from Canada. The Canadian national was entrusted to France on November 14, 2014.
In his extradition decision, Judge Robert Maranger wrote: “The absence of convincing evidence in the extradition case allows me to say that the case put up by the Republic of France against Mr. Diab is weak; the prospect of a conviction in the context of a fair trial seems unlikely. »
In France, the Paris Court of Appeal finally decided to reject the dismissal and to judge Hassan Diab. A decision confirmed by the Court of Cassation, the highest French court, on May 19, 2021.
“It’s very remarkable, it proves that French justice has never given up on finding the culprits of this attack,” notes Me Bernard Cahen, lawyer for the synagogue and the families of victims. His clients “hope for a conviction, but do not have a spirit of revenge,” he points out.
On the eve of this trial which will last three weeks, through the voice of his French lawyer, Me William Bourdon, the accused “protests his innocence with force, since the first day”. Faced with “a huge stake”, he approaches this audience both “anxious and confident”.
On the Canadian side, the lawyer advising him, Me Don Bayne, believes that “the evidence, as noted by the investigating judges, shows that [Hassan] Diab is innocent”. He details: “Witnesses and documents show that he was in Beirut to take exams between September 22 and October 3, 1980. […] The search for a culprit for this attack does not justify the creation of a scapegoat to satisfy the victims. »
October 3, 1980: A bomb exploded in front of the synagogue on rue Copernic, in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. Four people died and about forty were injured.
1999: Investigating judge Marc Trévidic takes over the case and speeds up the investigation. Hassan Diab, a Canadian-Lebanese sociology doctor, is suspected.
November 7, 2008: France officially requests the extradition of Hassan Diab from Canada.
November 14, 2014: Hassan Diab is extradited to France following a lengthy legal process. He is imprisoned in the Paris region. It remains there for more than three years.
January 12, 2018: Two investigating judges issue a dismissal order in favor of Hassan Diab, who returns to Canada three days later.
January 27, 2021: The Paris Court of Appeal orders a trial against Hassan Diab.
May 19, 2021: The Court of Cassation, France’s highest court, confirms the decision of the Court of Appeal.
From April 3 to 21, 2023: Trial of Hassan Diab in Paris.