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Who is Hassan Diab? |
Dr. Hassan Diab is a Canadian citizen and sociology professor who lives in Ottawa. Up until October, 2007, Hassan enjoyed an engaged and productive public life, including teaching, publishing research, and traveling internationally.
Hassan is wrongly accused by the French authorities of involvement in a 1980 bombing near a synagogue on the Rue Copernic in Paris.
Hassan is fighting his forced removal from Canada (via extradition) to face allegations based on secret intelligence and deeply flawed handwriting analysis.
Hassan is innocent of all charges. He is a peace-loving individual and is not anti-Semitic. Hassan strongly condemns all ethnically, racially, and religiously motivated violence.
Statement by Hassan Diab, November 8, 2010
Déclaration par Hassan Diab, 8 novembre 2010
Video statement by Hassan Diab, June 6, 2011
Déclaration vidéo par Hassan Diab, 6 juin 2011
By accepting unsourced intelligence and submitting it to the court in Hassan Diab’s case, the Canadian government is setting a dangerous legal precedent and undermining the principles of fundamental justice embodied in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Flawed Handwriting Analysis
According to the Crown Prosecutor, handwriting analysis submitted by French authorities is the “smoking gun” in the case. The analysis links Hassan to five words printed in basic block letters on a Paris hotel registration card in 1980 by the presumed bomber.
French investigators initially offered reports from two French handwriting analysts who concluded that Hassan was likely the author of the hotel registration card. The analysts reached this conclusion despite the very limited quantity of writing on the registration card and the simplistic nature of the writing. The analysts also dismissed the presence of radically different writing in the comparison documents as an attempt by Hassan to disguise his writing. They never considered the rather obvious possibility that the documents were written by more than one person.
The defence demonstrated conclusively that comparison documents used in the analysis belong to someone other than Hassan, thus completely discrediting the French handwriting analysis. As a result, the French withdrew their discredited handwriting reports in May, 2010.
In June 2010, after more than six months of unexplained delay, the French authorities introduced a third handwriting report to replace the two previous ones.
Three internationally renowned handwriting experts for the defence conducted a technical review of the latest French handwriting analysis report. At the extradition hearing the experts described the report as “absurd, totally misguided and totally incorrect”. They noted that the analyst deviated significantly from established methodologies in the field of forensic document examination and produced an incoherent and highly unreliable report rife with errors.
The defence experts agreed that the Paris hotel registration card provides an extremely poor specimen for identification. The quantity of writing on the registration card is very limited (5 words) and the letters are printed in a very simplistic style that makes it almost indistinguishable from the writing of countless people.
Some of the glaring problems the defence experts uncovered in the French handwriting analysis include relying on handwriting specimens that are 15 years apart, comparing printed and cursive writing, comparing letters with numbers, using copies when originals were available, and explaining away significant differences between writings as due to alleged natural variations.
Defence experts were especially critical of the French analyst’s approach to differences between Hassan’s handwriting and the handwriting on the hotel registration card. The number of differences present between the two groups of writing far exceed the number identified by the French analyst, and the presence of just the small group of differences should have caused her to conclude Hassan is not the author of the hotel registration card.
The judge at Hassan’s extradition hearing said that he found the French handwriting report “very problematic”, “very confusing”, and with “suspect conclusions”. The judge likened handwriting analysis to “pseudo-science”, and found merit in the defense argument that the flawed methodology used in the French handwriting analysis results in manifestly unreliable conclusions. Nevertheless, he ruled that Canada’s extradition law does not permit him to apply Canadian standards of evidence admissibility to foreign evidence.
What is extradition?
Extradition is the forced removal of a person from one country to another to face criminal charges.
The first step in the extradition process is the receipt of a note from the requesting state. Following this, the person sought is arrested. The person may be released on bail or may be held in custody pending the extradition hearing.
The second step is the extradition hearing which takes place in front of a Canadian judge who decides whether to commit the person sought to extradition. The hearing is based entirely on a document (“Record of the Case”) submitted by the requesting state summarizing the evidence against the person sought. At the extradition hearing, admission of defence evidence challenging the Record of the Case (e.g., reports by defence handwriting experts) must pass a very high threshold. Even if defence evidence is admitted, the judge may still decide it is insufficient to render the requesting state’s evidence manifestly unreliable.
At the end of the extradition hearing, the judge must either release the person or order his/her committal to extradition.
The third step of the extradition process involves the Minister of Justice who has final authority to surrender the person to the requesting state. This last step can be very political.
Canada extradites its citizens to a large number of countries, including France. France, however, does not extradite its own citizens.
What is wrong with Canada’s Extradition Law?
Canada’s Extradition Law is unjust.
The standard for extradition is so low that Canada hands people over to other countries more or less for the asking, based on the flimsiest of evidence that would not be accepted in a Canadian criminal trial.
An extradition hearing severely limits the Charter rights of the person sought. For example, the person sought has no right to disclosure beyond what the requesting state chooses to place in the Record of the Case.
Canada’s Extradition Law places the burden of proof on the person sought to show that the evidence against him/her is manifestly unreliable. The test for ureliability is so high that it is virtually impossible to meet.
As the case of Hassan Diab shows, Canada cooperates with extradition requests from countries that allow secret intelligence—including intelligence obtained from torture—to be used as evidence.
In Hassan’s case, Canada’s Extradition Law has:
allowed deeply flawed handwriting analysis to be admitted as evidence, despite the Canadian judge finding it “very problematic, very confusing, and with conclusions that are suspect”.
allowed the authorities to suppress evidence showing that Hassan’s finger and palm prints do not match those of the suspect.
allowed the case to go forward despite numerous serious contradictions and misrepresentations, and despite the reliance on secret intelligence in the Record of the Case.
Why You Should Be Concerned
Hassan’s case presents a very real danger that basic human rights will be trampled once again in the name of an illusory and restrictive sense of security. Dr. Diab is in a double-bind. In Canada, his opportunities to challenge France’s “evidence” are extremely limited because “an extradition is not a trial.” If extradited to France, Hassan will not be able to challenge the use of unsourced intelligence and flawed handwriting analysis as evidence against him.
France has been criticized by human rights organizations for violating internationally recognized due process standards and for running unfair trials. In July 2008, Human Rights Watch issued a report entitled “Preempting Justice: Counterterrorism Laws and Procedures in France” that details human rights violations under France’s counterterrorism laws.
We seek your support in publicizing Dr. Hassan Diab’s plight and in making sure that he receives fair treatment within the Canadian and French legal systems. Hassan’s case is similar to that of other Canadians of Middle-Eastern origin who in a rush to judgment were accused of involvement in terrorism, only to later be found innocent.
Dr. Hassan Diab has been forced to mount a very expensive legal defence to prevent his extradition to France. He has been burdened with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, which far exceed the modest means of a part-time university professor. You can make a difference by donating to his legal defence fund. Any amount, no matter how small, will help ensure that he has a chance to prove his innocence.
Finally, this fight is not just about Hassan Diab. It is about defending a vision of Canada as a regime that disrespects fundamental human rights and due process of law for all people, regardless of ethnic or national origin, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.