We’re in this together (or: what is “your turn” really about?)

July 30th, 2009 by Julian Egelstaff Leave a reply »

Update – January 9, 2012 — An excellent overview of the Kafkaesque case of Hassan Diab at Briarpatch Magazine.


Update – May 27, 2011

I sent the following letter to the Globe and Mail tonight:

In the case of extraditing Hassan Diab, a Canadian Citizen has been denied his freedom for literally *years* despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence against him that would stand up in a Canadian court. This is the most shocking and terrifying thing I have seen in this country in my life.

Before a Canadian citizen can be arrested, deprived of their freedom, and shipped overseas, must we not have at least a modicum of evidence? Wouldn’t you assume that the government would only arrest you and send you to a foreign country, if there was some evidence that could prove you had done something very wrong?

It seems not. What the French government has provided as evidence against Hassan Diab is a fig leaf, barely able to conceal their complete lack of a case.

Besides handwriting evidence that the judge himself has called “very problematic, very confusing, and with conclusions that are suspect,” the balance of the so-called evidence is based on un-sourced, secret intelligence of East German origin, which may have been the result of torture. It’s like the Maher Arar case, but backwards. If we stand up for human rights in this country, then the case to extradite Diab must be dismissed immediately because of the link to torture alone.

But instead, for *years*, Hassan Diab has faced the loss of all of his freedoms. He lost his teaching job when Carleton University decided that innocent-until-proven guilty was simply a nice idea on paper. He has had to pay *tens of thousands of dollars* for a monitoring anklet as part of his bail conditions.

The rules of extraditions even deny him the right to introduce evidence that could prove his fingerprints don’t even match the suspect in the case!

The terrifying thing is that our laws have done nothing to protect a Canadian citizen in this case. It seems that if a foreign government simply asks nicely, then our government will do everything in its power to hand you over. Sure, you’re not Hassan Diab, lucky for you, but not even proof of your innocence can stop you from being next.


Update – October 20, 2010 — Nearly two years after being arrested, but not charged with anything, Hassan Diab’s case is still not closed. Using spotty evidence (and that’s a generous description), the French government is asking that he be sent to France to stand trial. In November 2010, some conclusions might be reached in this long tale, when an extradition hearing might actually get under way.

As the website www.justiceforhassandiab.org states:

Dr. Diab’s case will establish a dangerous legal precedent if a Canadian court allows unsourced intelligence of unknown, untestable reliability to be used to extradite a Canadian citizen.

We were all shocked and horrified by the Maher Arar case. A foreign government claimed he was a terrorist and he was summarily sent to another country without a chance to confront the evidence against him (assuming there even was any!). And, of course, he was tortured there!

Hassan Diab is another Canadian citizen facing a similar situation. A foreign government is claiming he’s a terrorist, and he faces the threat of being sent to another country. But this time, it’s not the US doing the dirty work. The Canadian government is acting on behalf of France, to try and extradite a Canadian citizen based on the flimsiest of evidence. At least he’s not likely to be tortured in France.

Good luck to us all.


Original Post, July 30, 2009:

Carleton University fired a professor Tuesday, because he is alleged to have committed a terrorist act. I wonder if there’s a list of possible alleged acts somewhere in Robertson Hall (that was the admin building when I was a student there, maybe it’s not anymore). Maybe this hypothetical list is written in some sort of hierarchy, and a line is drawn across it somewhere, separating the fire-able allegations from the ones that merely mean they read all your e-mail.

Maybe it’s because I am an alumni of Carleton University (BJ/96) that the article on the Toronto Star website made me pause for a long while. Or maybe it’s just because of my appreciation for the principles of a free society, which I partly acquired at Carleton University, and other places, including at the knee of my mother’s parents, who were both Royal Air Force veterans, and had an endless supply of stories about World War II and the Nazis. My grandfather in particular was a lifelong student of the history of his youth, and knew as much about the political run up to the war as he did about the war itself.

One thing he shared with me, which made among the strongest impressions, was the famous quotation of German Pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

Well, they came for Hassan Diab, at Carleton University this week. Thankfully, many people are saying something.

Now, in fairness, perhaps professor Diab really did kill four people in Paris in 1980. I don’t know for sure. But that’s the whole point; it hasn’t been proven, it’s an allegation.

And also to be fair, this isn’t exactly the same thing as a Nazi purge. Carleton is not politically cleansing its faculty. But there’s a thread of public mindedness and community involvement that runs through Niemöller’s quotation, and this event at my alma mater. That’s what “your turn” is all about.

I registered the domain name yourturn.ca on April 19, 2005. I wanted a personal domain that could be a vehicle for saying something, somehow, about many things that I care about and am involved with, most of which revolve around engaging other people and working together for a common goal: promoting a free and open internet, environmentalism, open source software development, not-for-profit business models…. I could go on, and hopefully I will with many more postings.

I also like games, computer games and board games mostly, but all games certainly. When you’re playing a game, “your turn” is what you say to pass things on to the next person, it’s how you acknowledge that you’ve done your part, and now they can do theirs. It’s a gesture of community and partnership, even if you’re competing to win the game, you’re playing it together. We’ve all said “your turn” countless times in our lives. I think it’s a gesture that we can all take to heart far away from a games table.

In the meantime, it seems to me that Carleton University has made a big mistake here. This is not a case of an alleged pedophile coaching a little league team, where, if the allegations are true, there would be irreparable harm done. The worst that could happen in this case is that his views would be debated, in public, at an institution of higher learning. What could be more appropriate?

If you want to make your opinion known, write to Carleton University president Roseann O’Reilly Runte. I’m sure your local paper’s editor would like to hear about it too.


P.S. I must apologize for miraculously demonstrating Godwin’s Law with only one post! ;-)



  1. Don Pratt says:

    Subject: Important Evidentiary Hearing for Hassan Diab, October 22, 23, 26

    Dear Blogger,

    The Ontario Superior Court will be in session on October 22, 23, and 26 for a very important evidentiary hearing in the Hassan Diab case. At this preliminary hearing, the court will hear what evidence the defence plans to call to challenge extradition. This is where the battle lines will be drawn for the trial in January.

    For supporters and skeptics alike, this hearing is an opportunity to learn more about Dr Diab’s case and get our side of the story unfiltered by the mainstream media. Of course, it is also an opportunity for supporters to come out and show their support.

    Court is expected to begin at 10 AM and run until 4 or 5 PM each day. Observers are free to come and go (quietly) as they please. I invite you to attend the hearing and to spread the word to others.


    Don Pratt
    On behalf of the Hassan Diab Support Committee

  2. Thanks for the update. This time in court is and will be the heart of the matter here. My understanding is that Hassan Diab has not even been charged with a crime. They’re still sorting out the evidence to decide whether it even makes sense to extradite him to France. So proceeding with these hearings should be the highest priority for everyone who cares anything about this case.

    This is what makes Carleton’s actions so heinous in this case in my opinion. I can understand removing someone from their post if they were actually charged with a very serious crime, but that’s not the case here, and the bail conditions the court imposed specifically allowed him to continue teaching!

    Why Carleton felt the need to substitute its judgement for the rule of law completely escapes me. And there but for the grace of good fortune go us all.

    So without delay, the evidence should be weighed and then the appropriate action either way can be taken.


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