Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Courtroom Notebook: Defence highlights faulty evidence in the case against Dr. Hassan Diab

By Don Pratt

On October 22, 2009, Mr. Don Bayne, Hassan Diab’s lawyer, submitted nine reports to the court to challenge two key points of evidence in the French case against Hassan Diab. The reports produced by top experts in Canada, the United States, France, and England, show the inherent unreliability of the evidence against Hassan. Some of the reports address handwriting analysis submitted by France, others deal with the problems of using unsourced and untested intelligence as courtroom evidence.

The French case against Hassan alleges that five words on a Paris hotel registration card (presumably written by the bomber) match Hassan Diab’s handwriting. The defence consulted with internationally renowned handwriting experts who concur that the foundation for the handwriting analysis and the conclusions drawn from it are fundamentally flawed. Specimens used in the handwriting analysis and claimed to belong to Hassan actually belong to someone else.
In the words of the leading British expert, the French handwriting analysis is “appalling” and the worst he has seen in 30 years. The errors committed by France’s analysts in dealing with a crucial piece of evidence raises serious questions about the soundness of the case against Hassan, and provides a “false foundation” for linking Hassan to the Rue Copernic attack.

The French case against Hassan also relies on extensive help from intelligence services and is saturated with secret intelligence information from unknown sources, the reliability of which cannot be tested in court. Mr. Bayne argued that such information, which is not admissible in a Canadian court, should not serve as a basis for extradition. Expert reports submitted by Mr. Bayne draw attention to the many dangers inherent in using intelligence as evidence. He reminded the court of recent Canadian experience with cases driven by faulty intelligence such as that of Maher Arar.

The nine reports Mr. Bayne submitted as exhibits will be the subject of a voir dire hearing at the end of November or early December. A voir dire hearing is used to determine the admissibility of evidence. The judge must determine the admissibility of the new evidence submitted by the defence. That hearing was to begin on October 22, but the Crown Attorney requested an adjournment to review the reports submitted by the defence.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Letter to Canadian Members of Parliament in support of Dr. Hassan Diab

We encourage all friends and supporters of Hassan Diab to send letters to Canadian Members of Parliament (MPs), alerting them to Hassan’s plight and demanding that he receive justice.

The following sample letter is provided as a guide. You can also download a copy of the letter in rich text format (RTF). Postage is not required when mailing the letter from within Canada to an MP’s address on Parliament Hill.

If you live outside Canada, mail the letter to Mr. Paul Dewar, the MP for Hassan Diab’s riding (Ottawa Centre).

If you live in Canada, mail the letter to the MP for your riding, as well as to Mr. Paul Dewar.

List of all Members of Parliament

Find your Member of Parliament using your Postal Code

Mr. Paul Dewar’s Address:

Mr. Paul Dewar
Member of Parliament – Ottawa Centre
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
EMail: DewarP@parl.gc.ca

Honourable [Name]
Member of Parliament for [riding]
[House of Commons Address]

Subject: Request for assistance in preventing the unfair treatment of Dr. Hassan Diab

Dear [Mr. Ms. Mrs.] [Surname],

I am writing on behalf of Dr. Hassan Diab, whose case raises serious concerns about the preservation of fundamental rights and the integrity of procedural justice in Canada.

I urge you to bring Dr. Diab’s plight to the attention of other Parliamentarians, raise his case in Question Period, and demand that the Minister of Justice ensure Dr. Diab receives fair treatment in accordance with the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Dr. Hassan Diab is a sociology professor and a law-abiding Canadian citizen of Lebanese descent who lives in Ottawa, Canada. Until recently, Dr. Diab had enjoyed an engaged and productive public life, including teaching, publishing research, and travelling internationally. In November 2008, Dr. Diab was arrested by the RCMP at the request of French authorities, who accuse him of involvement in an attack against a synagogue in Paris in 1980. He remained in detention until April of 2009, when he was released under very strict bail conditions. His extradition hearing is scheduled to begin in January, 2010.

Dr. Hassan Diab has been forced to mount a very expensive legal defence to demonstrate the inherent unreliability of the French case against him and to show that he is a victim of mistaken identity. The “evidence” put forward by France’s counter-terrorism judiciary is saturated with secret intelligence information from unknown sources, the reliability of which cannot be tested in court. Nothing of the sort would be admissible in a Canadian criminal court. Recent reports by Human Rights Watch and other advocacy organizations drawing attention to inadequate safeguards for the rights of the accused in the French counter-terrorism judiciary raises serious concerns about Dr. Diab’s prospects for a fair trail in France.

In July 2009, Dr. Diab’s right to the presumption of innocence was compromised by Carleton University’s highly politicized decision to dismiss him from a summer teaching position. The dismissal breached a legally binding contract and contravened a collective agreement with the University faculty. Carleton University’s decision denied Dr. Diab the right to earn a livelihood in his profession. Hassan is paying heavily with his job, his rights, his wallet, and his freedom.

Testimonials from family and longstanding friends and professional colleagues vouch for Dr. Diab’s nonviolent character, the complete absence of a militant history, and his distaste for bigotry and prejudice in any form. To us, Hassan represents the ideals of the sociological profession, an open and engaged intellect combined with independence of thought and action. You may search in vain for anyone who has ever stated a contrary view of Dr. Diab. The innuendo-laced case against him amounts to a disingenuous attempt at character assassination designed to play on the public’s fear of terrorism and to hasten his extradition.

The charges against Dr. Diab fit into a troubling pattern of recent high profile cases involving Canadians of Middle Eastern and Moslem background whose experience with miscarried justice and prejudicial treatment in violation of the Charter has been documented through official inquiries conducted by the Canadian Government (Maher Arar, Abdullah al-Malki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, Muyyed Nureddin, and others).

It is essential for Dr. Diab and for the preservation of fundamental rights and the integrity of procedural justice that the Government of Canada vigorously ensure that Dr. Diab receives fair and equal treatment before the law.

Please contact a member of Dr. Diab’s support committee for further information by e-mailing diabsupport@gmail.com. Additional information is also available at http://www.justiceforhassandiab.org.

Yours Sincerely,

[Your Name]
[Street Address]
[Town, Province]
[Postal Code]
[Phone Number – optional]

Monday, October 12, 2009

Democracy Quietly Eroding

By Rachel Anjorin

My friend, Hassan Diab, is innocent of the charges. None of the accusations against him fits with anything I know about him. In fact, they run completely counter to everything I know about him. Hassan and I met in the late 1980's and have been friends ever since.

I watch with much pain and concern as the case against my friend unfolds, particularly in the press and the so-called court of public opinion. I see the media’s misrepresentations, sometimes subtle, sometimes glaring, the reaction of anonymous “commentators” in the echo chamber of anonymity on the Internet, and I worry that in the end we are sacrificing our democratic ideals on the alter of “national security”. Terrorism is a scary thing. I’m certainly not pretending otherwise. However, I see a man I am certain is innocent being caught under the wheels of a machine driven by fear, phobias, and perhaps even political agendas.

The first signs of bias made themselves apparent to Hassan and those around him long before the case ever came to the Canadian media’s attention. It started about a year before his arrest. The surveillance conducted by shadowy tough guys driving around in cruisers with dark windows became so brazen that it was obviously meant to intimidate, harass, and perhaps even provoke. Imagine being followed throughout your day, reporting it to the police repeatedly, and seeing nothing change. Any sane person would begin to think the fix must be in, especially if you had been approached by a French journalist asking you questions about some terrorist attack that happened in Europe almost 30 years ago. If that’s not bad enough, imagine catching someone breaking into your apartment, and then spotting that same person among your watchers. At some point you’ve got to wonder if there’s a bull’s eye painted on your back. So much for the presumption of innocence.

Then came the charges and the SWAT team raid - serious, sudden, including the dreaded word “terrorism”. Reactions? Some believe charges alone are enough evidence of guilt. “They must have had a reason to charge him or he wouldn’t have been arrested.” Not necessarily. This case consists of a few disconnected strands of “evidence” that are pieced together with dollops of intelligence from secret sources whose credibility will not be testable in court.

The French have concocted a convoluted and contradictory scenario to tie Hassan to the crime. That files for a case based on 29-year-old evidence would be sealed is nothing short of bewildering. All the more baffling—and no less disappointing—is the way the press has never really bothered to look at the court papers THEY successfully fought to unseal, and which have been gathering dust for nearly a year now. If the French had any trepidation about sharing the “facts of the case” with the media, they soon learned they had little to worry about. In lieu of doing their homework, journalists up to now have shown a disturbing tendency to take the path of least resistance and glide along with prevailing public opinion and prejudices, ignoring complexities and inconsistencies in favor of superficial analysis expressed in terms of a banal “terrorism” discourse.

Anyone willing to take some time to do a little digging will discover that the “terrorist” label the French have tried to apply to Dr. Diab blends inchoate ideas about terrorism spanning generations and eras. This alone should give the alert reader reason to pause and consider whether logic, parsimony, and even common sense may have been cast to the wind.

France would have preferred to spirit Hassan away in the darkness of a media blackout to prolonged pretrial detention in France followed by a trial presided over by a special tribunal of anti-terror magistrates who rely on arcane French law and court martial efficiency to achieve astonishingly high conviction rates. In truth, this process has more to do with flexing state power at the expense of individual rights and scoring easy points by pandering to public opinion. This process also dishonors France’s own democratic traditions while sidestepping international obligations regarding the inviolability of human rights and fidelity to procedural justice.

I urge readers to do a little research and carefully consider all the information available in the case against Dr. Hassan Diab. All the facts considered together point away from Hassan as a suspect.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The friends of Hassan Diab stand in solidarity with him and demand justice.

By Don Pratt

This blog is intended as a space where friends of Dr. Hassan Diab, the Canadian professor wrongfully accused by the French, can tell readers something about him. We know he is a very decent and thoughtful person. We have seen him in both public and private moments. He is a gentle and soft-spoken person who loves the company of others. We appreciate him as a friend given to wit, humor, and frankness. He is quick with a joke and a hearty laugh, but he can also be as serious and level-headed as circumstances require. He’s an outgoing free spirit, independent-minded, nobody’s fool, nobody’s yes-man. He challenges assumptions and questions injustices, just as one would hope for in a friend. If he’s ever shown bigotry, held a grudge, or harbored ill will towards anyone, we’ve certainly never seen it.

As for the Rue Copernic affair, we know in our heads and hearts that he had nothing to do with it. Hassan is not some new kid on the block. He’s in his mid-fifties. Most of his friends have known him for decades, and many of us go back even further than the period in question. Some may suppose that it is possible to hide a violent past, but you don’t keep up that kind of a ruse with that many people for that long and get away with it. You can’t. You just can’t.

So, as friends of Hassan Diab, we will use this blog to tell you something about him. We will help readers gain a better understanding of his legal predicament. We will stand in solidarity with him and demand justice. We know that although we can’t claim objectivity or impartiality, we know that we speak truth.