French court orders new probe in Paris bombing case

2 min

Paris (AFP)

A French court Friday ordered a new probe into evidence allegedly linking a Lebanese-Canadian academic to the 1980 deadly bombing of a Paris synagogue before deciding whether to put him on trial.

The October 3, 1980, bombing of a synagogue on 24 Rue Copernic in Paris, which killed four people and injured 46, was the first fatal attack against Jews in France since the Nazi occupation in World War II.

On Friday, the appeals court said it would grant an anti-terrorist investigating magistrate until February 15 to further analyse a handwritten hotel registration form, which prosecutors claim was filled out by Hassan Diab, the only identified suspect in the case.

Diab, 64, was extradited from Canada to France in 2014, but then released earlier this year after French magistrates ruled evidence against him was "not convincing enough" to hold him.

Prosecutors had appealed the decision and the Paris court had been expected to decide on Friday whether to drop all charges or proceed with a trial.

Prosecutors and defence lawyers have already long haggled over results of previous handwriting analysis carried out on five words left on a hotel registration form.

The form was filled out in the name of Alexander Panadriyu who, investigators believe, was a false identity used by Diab who is currently living in Canada.

"The court still has a doubt (...) and it wants to close all loopholes before reaching a decision," Diab's lawyer William Bourdon said.

Diab has always denied involvement, saying he was taking exams in Beirut at the time of the bombing.

Diab, a former professor of sociology at Ottawa University, was accused of planting the bomb inside the saddle bag of a motorbike parked outside the packed synagogue close to the Champs-Elysees, where hundreds of people had gathered for Sabbath prayers.

Evidence presented against him also included a sketch of the bomber which resembles Diab and the discovery of a passport in his name with entry and exit stamps from Spain, where the bomber is believed to have fled.

There were also testimonies from witnesses that Diab was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) at the time of the bombing.