43 years later, suspect in deadly Paris synagogue bombing goes on trial in absentia


PARIS, France – A Lebanese-Canadian academic who was the sole suspect in the 1980 bombing outside a Paris synagogue went on trial in absentia on Monday, nearly 43 years after the attack killed four and wounded 46 unclaimed.

French authorities identified Hassan Diab as a suspect in 1999. They accuse him of planting the bomb on the evening of October 3, 1980, outside the synagogue where 320 worshipers had gathered to mark the end of the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah. .

Diab, 69, has denied involvement in the attack and said he was at a university in Beirut at the time of the bombing in western Paris. His supporters and lawyers in France and Canada claim that French judicial authorities have unfairly pursued Diab and that he is the victim of a mistaken identity.

French investigators attributed the attack on the synagogue to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Special Operations, a Palestinian terrorist group. Canada authorized Diab’s extradition to France in late 2014. He spent three years in pre-trial detention but then anti-terrorism judges ordered his release from French custody due to lack of evidence, and he returned to Canada.

A French appeals court ruled in January 2021 that Diab must be tried on terrorism-related charges. If convicted, he could receive a life sentence. A verdict is expected by April 21. He lives in Ottawa.

Survivors of the attack and families of the victims attended the first day of events in Paris on Monday. Prosecutor Benjamin Chambre said Diab’s absence is proof of “great confusion in his behaviour”.

“It is a great shame for justice and for the victims 43 years after the events,” said Chambre. Diab’s lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client had “never” fled anything.

Hassan Diab, centre, covers his face as he is escorted from the Ottawa Courthouse in Ottawa on November 14, 2008. (The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick/AP)

For survivors, the long road to trial may be delayed but at least justice is not denied, their lawyers told the Associated Press. Lawyers for the victims say the trial will act as a deterrent to future acts of terrorism and anti-Semitic attitudes.

“It is a positive development that the trial is taking place, even if it is [the suspect] It will not be there and even if it is found for free,” said Bernard Cahen, a lawyer for two families who lost loved ones.

David Père, a lawyer for a 14-year-old victim who was celebrating his bar mitzvah at the time of the attack, said that “the path of justice must be followed,” even after more than four decades of investigation and d ‘legal proceedings. . The attack is suspected, and Père said his client wants to hear what Diab has to say in court, even if only through his lawyers.

“A terrorist attack is something that affects you every day of your life,” Père said. “A trial is a result [of an attack]not revenge.”

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