France seeks extradition of Canadian professor over 1980 bombing of Paris synagogue in which 4 died

Israeli filmmaker Aliza Shagrir and three French citizens were killed in the attack.

Paris synagogue attack 248 88 (photo credit: AFP)
Paris synagogue attack 248 88
(photo credit: AFP)
French authorities are seeking the extradition of a Canadian sociology professor suspected in the October 3, 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people, including an Israeli woman, and wounded dozens. Hassan Diab, 54, a dual Lebanese-Canadian citizen who teaches at the University of Ottawa, was arrested at his home in Gatineau, Quebec on November 13 by Royal Canadian Mounted Police acting on a French request for extradition. French authorities have until the end of December to prove their case for extradition. Ontario Superior Court Judge Michel Charbonneau ruled on Wednesday that Diab should remain in custody while awaiting a decision on his extradition, saying he poses a flight risk, AFP reported. "There is a real possibility of him not appearing at his extradition hearing," it quoted the judge as saying. An extradition hearing is expected in February. Diab is accused of planting a bomb in a motorcycle saddlebag outside the Copernic Street synagogue in a wealthy eastern Paris neighborhood on a Friday night, killing three Frenchmen and Aliza Shagrir, 42, and wounding 22 others. Shagrir, an Israeli cinematographer, was walking past the synagogue with her 15-year-old son, Haggai, who today works at the Foreign Ministry. Her other son, Oron, is currently a university professor. Her husband, the Austrian-born Micha Shagrir, 69, established the Aliza Shagrir Fund prize for outstanding documentaries in her name. Micha Shagrir is a well-known television, film and documentary producer who lives in Jerusalem and has never remarried. He was appointed board chairman of Jerusalem's Khan Theater last year, and is a former director of the Sam Spiegel Film School and the Israel Film Foundation. Speaking on the family's behalf, Oron Shagrir, Micha's son, said Thursday, "We are of course very happy that he has been arrested. We hope that he will be extradited to France, though we understand that process is neither short nor simple. And we praise the French for dedicating the utmost efforts to bringing this man to justice." French authorities said at the time of the attack that they believed a Palestinian terrorist group planned it to target Jews as they walked out of a Shabbat evening service. According to L'Express, French investigators suspected the bombing was organized by the Abu Nidal group, which was at odds with the PLO. It was the first fatal attack against the French Jewish community since the Nazi occupation. Some 250,000 demonstrators later marched through the streets of Paris to protest the attack. "Better late than never after 30 years of silence," Rabbi Michael Williams, who officiated at the synagogue when the bomb exploded, was quoted by the European Jewish Press as saying of the arrest. The French Jewish umbrella group, CRIF, praised the arrest, saying the attack was the first in France since World War II that "targeted Jews because they were Jews." The CRIF thanked investigators for their 28 years of perseverance in the case. The French government at the time, under President Valerie Giscard D'Estaing, mostly ignored the attack, and did not even issue a condemnation. Premier Raymond Barre enraged French Jews by declaring that "three innocent people and one Jewess" had been killed. Diab's arrest marks the the culmination of years of international anti-terrorist investigations, French authorities said. In Paris, Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie praised the "excellent cooperation" between French and Canadian authorities. Diab claimed he was innocent and a victim of "mistaken identity." "This is a case of mistaken identity," said Diab's lawyer, Rene Duval, who has insisted his client was not in Paris at the time of the bombing. Duval said in a telephone interview with AFP that Diab had been studying in Beirut at the time of the synagogue bombing, and that he later moved to the United States to pursue a doctorate. Before the arrest, Diab worked as a part-time professor of sociology and anthropology at Canada's Carleton University and as a lecturer at the University of Ottawa. He faces life in prison for murder if convicted in a French court. French authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in November 2007, after receiving information from German intelligence that he was involved. The French authorities reportedly identified Diab in 1999 in a card index of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) that came into the possession of German intelligence and was handed over to France. Two French judges issued an international arrest warrant against Diab in early November. Under Canadian law, French authorities have 45 days to provide evidence to support an extradition request. JTA and news agencies contributed to this report.