Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hassan Diab: Canada's Dreyfus?

A clear abuse of process is presently going on in a Canadian courtroom.

I have blogged about the Hassan Diab case before. Briefly, Diab has been accused of the bombing of a synagogue in France thirty years ago. Extradition by French authorities has been requested. Hassan was abruptly fired by Carleton University, and is currently out on bail, having to bear the considerable costs ($30,000 a year) of wearing a GPS device to comply with bail conditions.

France's case has crumbled.
Diab's defence team was permitted to call expert witnesses, who demolished the evidence provided by the French government's handwriting experts, key to its extradition request. But Crown prosecutors here have sought delay after delay to allow France to rebuild its tattered dossier.

France has now withdrawn all that evidence--and has "discovered" a fresh new handwriting expert, who has written a 34-page report yet to be filed in court.
Crown prosecutor Claude LeFrançois, shamefully, has demanded that the defence not be permitted to call expert witnesses a second time in rebuttal.

In France, only the prosecution may call expert witnesses. In Canada, the scales are more evenly balanced. LeFrançois appears to have forgotten which jurisdiction he is in.

Why the mention of Dreyfus? He, too, was framed on the basis of alleged similarities between his handwriting and that of the actual author of a document who had expressed treasonable intentions. He was exonerated by one handwriting expert, who was then replaced with an obliging new one who reported what his persecutors wanted to hear. The abuse of process that followed is well-known.

France may not have learned from its mistakes. But why are its machinations--for such they appear to be--being replicated in a Canadian courtroom?

Diab's lawyer is withering:

"At the 11th hour and 59th minute they withdraw their entire handwriting case and substitute a new case," said Bayne, who accused French authorities of finding a new handwriting expert in an attempt to save their case after the two they originally used were discredited by four defence handwriting experts, including a former RCMP document examiner.

Bayne said the 56-year-old Diab, who has no criminal record and can no longer work, "has depleted his resources, been imprisoned, fighting a case they have decided to change."

Bayne added he may file an abuse of process application and may now have to represent Diab for free since France's "war of attrition" is "disabling this ordinary citizen from fighting back."

In the Dreyfus case, anti-Semitism was an obvious factor in that gross miscarriage of justice. One cannot help but speculate that Diab's own ethnicity may be at play here, at least to some degree. It took only one complaint from B'nai Brith to get him booted out of his job at Carleton. And now a more than shaky case, hastily reconstructed by a foreign government, appears sufficient for a distinctly malodorous judicial persecution here at home.

Diab's lawyer is understandably upset. So should we all be.


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