“Paris – the city of Copernic and so many subsequent acts of terror – will see Diab take the stand in 2016... May this be the year to bring final closure to families of the victims and survivors. After a wait of 36 years, justice further delayed would be justice denied.”
Paris, 22 December 2015
On 3 October 1980, at 6:35 pm, a bomb exploded outside the Copernic Synagogue in Paris, killing four passers-by and injuring 40 worshippers inside the building.
Then French Prime Minister, Raymond Barre, declared that "a bomb set for Jews killed four innocent Frenchmen". One was Aliza - wife of Israeli film maker, Micha Shagrir - who had arrived to Paris as a weekend guest of journalist, Tamar Golan.
Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, accompanied Aliza the one hundred yards from her hostess's apartment to the corner of Copernic, where a few seconds later she met her death.
Samuels immediately derided the authorities for blaming the extreme right. He argued that “the attack had all the features of Palestinian + local extreme left terrorism.” In the aftermath of Copernic, and over the following two years, he tabulated 73 such incidents of antisemitic terror, of which 29 in France. “This ended with the summer of 1982 Israeli incursion into southern Lebanon, dispersing European terrorists in PLO training camps. Arriving home, their targets shifted to banks and government installations – rather than synagogues – resulting in a rigorous crackdown,” claimed Samuels.
In 1999, French intelligence obtained evidence pointing to the perpetrators. These included the name Hassan Diab, a Beirut-born Palestinian member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – Special Operations (PFLP-SO), alleged to have assembled and detonated the bomb.
Reported evidence, including false passports, hand-writing analysis and testimony from PFLP and other associates, gleaned from European and United States intelligence services, led to the 2008 detention and house arrest of Hassan Diab, now a University Professor of Sociology in Ottawa, Canada. There followed two years of house arrest and a campaign of Palestinian solidarity sympathizers claiming mistaken identity.
Samuels attended the 2010 extradition hearing which degenerated into anti-Israel demonstrations. The Wiesenthal Centre, for the next four years, campaigned in the French and Canadian media for his transfer to a Paris court.
After serial appeals, Diab arrived in France where, in February 2015, he was charged with “murders, attempted murders; voluntary destruction of the property of others by an explosive or incendiary substance in an organized group; crimes related to individual or collective deeds aiming to gravely disturb public order by intimidation or terror.”
His defence counsel submitted two demands for annulment of the case, on grounds that the evidence lacked credibility. Both were rejected by the Paris Court of Appeals last week, on 17 December.
The Centre has addressed thanks to Advocates David Père and Bernard Cahen, applauding all the victims' legal counsel and the Appeals Court ruling, which will now permit this important trial to move forward.
“Paris – the city of Copernic and so many subsequent acts of terror – will see Diab take the stand in 2016... May this be the year to bring final closure to families of the victims and survivors. After a wait of 36 years, justice further delayed would be justice denied,” concluded Samuels.