Trial over fatal Paris synagogue attack opens after 43 years

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The trial of a 69-year-old Lebanese-Canadian accused of a deadly 1980 bomb attack outside a Paris synagogue opened Monday after more than four decades of legal wrangling.

Canada-based Hassan Diab, who denies any involvement in the attack that killed four and injured dozens, told the court during preliminary hearings that he would not appear for the trial, after the charges against him were dropped in earlier investigation.

In the early evening of October 3, 1980, explosives planted on a motorcycle exploded near a synagogue in Rue Copernic in the chic 16th arrondissement of Paris, killing four people – a student riding a motorcycle, a driver, an Israeli journalist and a man another. caretaker

46 people were injured in the explosion.

The bombing was the first fatal attack against a Jewish target on French soil since World War II.

No organization has ever claimed responsibility but police suspect a splinter group of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

French intelligence accused Diab, a professor of sociology, in 1999 of making the 10-kilogram (22-pound) bomb.

They pointed to Diab’s likeness to police sketches drawn at the time and handwriting analysis confirmed what they said was a suspect.

They also produced a key piece of evidence against him – a passport in his name, seized in Rome in 1981, with entry and exit stamps from Spain, where the attack plan was believed to have originated.

In 2014, Canada extradited Diab at the request of the French authorities.

However, the investigative judges were unable to conclusively prove his guilt during the investigation and Diab was released, leaving France to Canada a free man in 2018.

– ‘End gambling’ –

Three years later, a French court overturned the earlier decision and ordered Diab to stand trial after all, on charges of murder, attempted murder and destruction of property in connection with a terrorist enterprise.

French authorities have failed to issue a new international arrest warrant for Diab, leaving it up to him to attend his trial or not.

He could be sentenced to life in absentia if found guilty.

“This trial has to happen now,” said Benjamin Chambre, one of the prosecutors, accusing Diab of “cowardice” for not showing up.

But the suspect’s prominent lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client’s decision to stay away was “understandably optimistic”.

The French judges “falsely gave the impression” that Diab was guilty because the plaintiffs were “demanding a guilty person at any price”.

“The case should have been closed when the investigation was abandoned,” said Bourdon.

Diab received support from non-governmental organizations, including Amnesty International, which said his assertion that he was in Lebanon at the time of the attack was credible.

Bernard Cahen, a lawyer for about 100 plaintiffs in the case, said the start of the trial marked “the end of a long ordeal” for his clients.

The birth is expected on April 21.

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