Academic guilty of Paris synagogue bombing in 1980

More than 42 years after the deadly bombing of a Paris synagogue, a court in Paris has convicted a Lebanese-Canadian university professor of carrying out the attack.

The judges decided that Hassan Diab, 69, was the young man who planted the motorcycle bomb in the Rue Copernic on October 3, 1980.

Four people were killed and 38 others wounded in the bombing. Diab refused to attend the trial, but the judges gave him a life sentence.

Prosecutors had argued it was “beyond possible doubt” that he was behind the bombing.

The Rue Copernic attack was the first to target Jews in France since World War Two, and became a template for many other similar attacks linked to militants in the Middle East in the years that followed.

The decades-long investigation became a byword both for protracted judicial confusion, as well as for the dogged determination of a handful of magistrates not to let the case be forgotten.

Diab, 69, a Lebanese of Palestinian origin who obtained Canadian nationality in 1993 and teaches sociology in Ottawa, was first named as a suspect on the basis of new evidence in 1999, already nearly 20 years after the killings.

Eight years later, the French issued an international arrest warrant, and it was not until 2014 that Canada agreed to extradite. But in 2018, French magistrates declared the case closed for lack of proof, allowing Diab to return to Canada.

Finally in 2021, an appeal against the closure of the case was upheld in the Supreme Court, the first time this had ever happened in a French terrorism case. It meant a trial could finally go ahead, and it began earlier this month.

From the start, Diab has protested his innocence and he did not return to France for the trial, which was conducted in his absence. His conviction means that a second extradition request will have to follow, though with strong doubts over whether it will succeed.

Over three weeks, the court heard an account of the known facts of the case, plus arguments identifying Diab as the bomber and counter-evidence suggesting he was a victim of mistaken identity. -BBC

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