France begins trial of 1980 synagogue bombing suspect after over a decade-long delay News
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France begins trial of 1980 synagogue bombing suspect after over a decade-long delay

A French court Monday began hearing the criminal trial of Lebanese-Canadian Hassan Diab, who is accused of committing the 1980 bombing of the Copernic synagogue. The trial is expected to last three weeks and will be conducted in abstentia, meaning Diab will not be present for the trial.

The bombing, which took place on October 3, 1980, occurred directly outside the Copernic synagogue in Paris, France. Killing four and injuring 46, the bombing was the first attack targeting Jewish people in France since the end of World War II. Despite public protests and outrage following the event, no suspects were arrested at the time.

28 years later, in 2008, France requested the extradition of Hassan Diab, a sociology professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada, for his alleged involvement in the bombing. Due to the complexity of the extradition process, Canada did not surrender Diab to France until November, 2014. After being detained for slightly over three years awaiting trial, French prosecutors dismissed the charges on the basis of lack of evidence, and released Diab in January 2018. Two years later, in 2021, an appeal court overturned the 2018 dismissal, ordering a trial on the criminal charges. The trial began Monday, and is expected to conclude by April 21.

The trial began on Monday with Diab in absentia. According to his representation, Diab does not plan to attend any of the trial. The prosecution has raised the idea that this absence is proof of “great cowardice in his behavior.” Diab’s defense, however, counters that his absence is not proof of anything. The defense’s argument focuses on a claim of mistaken identity, relying on Diab’s claim that he was in Beirut, Lebanon at the time of the attack.

While the outcome of the trial is uncertain, representatives of the prosecution and victims have stated that, regardless of the result, they hope the trial will serve to deter future terrorism in France.