Saturday, March 21, 2009

Solidarity Without Cause

In November of 2007 French police issued a warrant for the arrest of a Palestinian by the name of Hassan Diab. Mr. Diab happened to be living in Canada at that time. Canada has an extradition agreement with France. German intelligence had revealed that Mr. Diab was identified as being involved in the 1980 bombing outside the Copernic Street Paris synagogue that killed four people. This target of a Jewish centre represented an attack against France as well, the first such occurrence since the end of the Second World War.

On this occasion violence against Jewish targets were carried out not by Nazi stormtroopers, but by a member of a violent Palestinian terror group (PPLF). And that member was identified as a then-young Palestinian, Hassan Diab. Mr. Diab insists this is an error, that he has been misidentified. French authorities reject that, claiming they have the evidence now that they require to take him to justice. He will face a life sentence for murder, attempted murder and wilful destruction of property if he is convicted.

Canada, acting on France's request, took Mr. Diab into custody awaiting extradition. Mr. Diab has the moral support of many within Canada who are willing and eager to vouch for him, none of whom believe that the person they know would have been capable of acting as a violent extremist. They know him as he is now, an ostensibly mild-mannered academic, who has taught sporadically at both University of Ottawa and Carleton University.

The chairman of Carleton University's department of sociology and anthropology, where Mr. Diab had a part-time teaching assignment is fully in support of this man: "The person I know is hard working and cares about his students". The person he knows is most obviously not the person who committed a terror act. Much as those accused of war crimes, later settling down to a normal life are seen by their neighbours as being 'ordinary', unremarkable and kind, not the type to commit murder.

There are those within Ottawa's Arab community who are convinced Mr. Diab is merely a predictable victim of universal anti-Arab attitudes prevalent since 9/11. "We feel we are being targeted and this is just one case of it", according to a member of the Canadian Coalition of Arab Professionals and Community Associations (CAPCA), one of several people who testified on Hassan Diab's behalf at a court bail hearing.

Another, a PhD student and teacher at the University of Ottawa informed the court of the "very high support" among Arabs living in Ottawa. Most of them convinced that Mr. Diab has been 'targeted'. That the move to extradite this man represents a 'miscarriage of justice'. A miscarriage that surely a French court would speedily identify. A local mortgage broker, another member of CAPCA, claims that Canadians of "Muslim and Arab origin have had a bad time in Canada."

Supporting them is a rabbi for the Congregation Migdal Tzedeq, who became involved because he was intrigued about the case, and who contacted some of Mr. Diab's former teachers and graduate school colleagues in Canada and the U.S., all of whom filed supportive letters on his behalf. Their testimony and his gut reaction after having interviewed Mr. Diab at the detention centre where he's being held has convinced the rabbi of Mr. Diab's 'sincerity'.

Asked by Crown prosecutors how much information they have on this case, the PhD student and the mortgage broker admitted they had no personal knowledge of Mr. Diab, and nothing about the allegations launched against him other than what they'd gleaned from their brief interviews at the detention centre. When he was prodded by an interlocutor as to how he could be so certain about Mr. Diab's innocence, the mortgage broker said he had asked him.

"I asked him, 'Did you do it [the bombing]? I looked the man in the eye and he said 'No'. I believe the man." They all do, and they have all expressed their willingness to put up bail for this high-flight-risk man accused of murder. If he is innocent the evidence assembled by French authorities will surely not be sufficient to indite him. This is for a French court to determine.

Labels: , , ,

Follow @rheytah Tweet