OTTAWA – An Ottawa sociology professor is a big step closer to being extradited to France for questioning about the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue.
The Supreme Court of Canada said Thursday it would not hear the appeal of Hassan Diab, wanted by French authorities in the decades-old terrorism case.
In keeping with its custom, the Supreme Court gave no reason for its decision.
Diab and his lawyers planned to hold a news conference later in the day.
In submissions to the high court, they said it was time to settle key legal questions about the use of unproven intelligence in a criminal prosecution.
They argued that France’s reliance on secret information raises basic issues of constitutionality and procedural fairness.
Another key element of the case is the reliability of evidence that has been revealed to date — particularly handwriting on a hotel registration card allegedly penned by Diab.
The Canadian government said Diab’s request for a Supreme Court hearing raised no issue of public importance and should be dismissed.
French authorities suspect Diab, 60, was involved in the anti-Semitic bombing 34 years ago that killed four people and injured dozens of others — an accusation he denies.
Even if he is sent to France, it is not certain that Diab would face trial.
Still, Diab’s supporters called a Supreme Court hearing his last real chance for justice in Canada.
He has garnered the backing of prominent people including former federal solicitor general Warren Allmand, linguistics professor and activist Noam Chomsky, and Sharry Aiken, associate dean of law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
The RCMP arrested Diab, a Canadian of Lebanese descent, in November 2008 in response to a request by France.
In June 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger committed Diab for extradition despite acknowledging the case against him was weak.
The following April, then-justice minister Rob Nicholson signed an extradition order surrendering Diab to France.
The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the decisions of the lower court and the minister, prompting Diab’s lawyers to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case.
“There can be no debate that the concerns raised about the use of intelligence in terrorism trials are pressing ones demanding serious consideration,” said their filing.
“Canadians deserve that this issue be addressed head-on.”
In its submission to the Supreme Court, the federal government said Diab’s concerns about untested intelligence amounted to an argument that he would not get a fair trial in France. But the high court has already said that trial fairness in the requesting state shouldn’t be lightly questioned, the government noted.
“Surrender should only be refused owing to trial fairness concerns if it is demonstrated that the criminal laws or procedures in the requesting state shock the Canadian conscience,” said the federal brief.
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