A Canadian former sociology professor was sentenced to life in prison Friday after bombing a Jewish synagogue in Paris nearly 50 years earlier, according to The New York Times.
On Oct. 3, 1980, a Reform Judaism synagogue in the Rue Copernic was bombed, killing four people who were outside, according to NYT, but the case remained cold for years. In 1999, police identified Hassan Diab, a Lebanese-Canadian sociology professor, as the prime suspect, and decades later he was eventually given a life sentence in a French court.
The judge ordered Friday that Diab be sentenced to life in prison after he failed to make an appearance in court, according to NYT.
“The evidence shows he’s innocent and yet they’ve convicted him,” Diab’s lawyer Donald Bayne said after the sentence was announced, according to CBC News. “It’s a political result. It’s a wrongful conviction.”
“It’s a good thing that even 43 years later we show that justice is still present,” Bernard Cahen, the lawyer for several of the plaintiffs, said, according to NYT. “[I]t is the end of a very long ordeal.”
The bomb had been set to go off when the nearly 300 worshipers were leaving the building, but after the service ran long, it exploded, killing an Israeli journalist, a driver, a student riding a motorbike and a janitor, according to NYT. French police grew increasingly frustrated as officials ran up against several dead ends over the years.
The attack was initially cited as a Neo-Nazi hate crime but was eventually linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a U.S.-designated terrorist group since 1997, that has been known to carry out many attacks against the Jewish state of Israel, according to NYT. After nearly two decades, police identified Diab, who had been teaching as a sociology professor in Canada, as a suspect using “police sketches,” “handwriting analysis” and passport stamps.
Diab was eventually extradited from Canada and then subsequently released in 2018 after investigators said they “cannot rule out that Hassan Diab is the bomber, but it is difficult to go further” due to lack of evidence, according to NYT. In 2021, police reopened the case and prosecuted Diab for the bombing, despite his claims that they had mistaken his identity for the actual bomber.
Diab refused to attend the trial even after he had agreed to appear in person, opting to stay in Canada after he returned following his release in 2018, according to NYT.
Cahen previously expressed little hope that Diab would serve his sentence, according to a recent interview, saying “Let’s not delude ourselves, Mr. Diab will never be extradited from Canada.” Cahen appeared to be referring to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s expressed support of Diab in 2018.
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