Carleton University says Hassan Diab, an Ottawa professor who was released on bail after being arrested in connection with the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue, has been relieved of his teaching duties of a summer Carleton course.
On July 30, Karen March, a sociology professor at Carleton, took over as the summer sociology course’s class instructor. She and students addressed the controversy surrounding Diab’s dismissal as part of their class discussion on “social problems.”
Some students enrolled in the first-year sociology class Diab taught since mid-July say they are not happy he has been replaced
“They knew who he was when they hired him. What’s the point of changing it because the media found out?” said one student in the July 30 class, the first scheduled class since the professor’s dismissal.
“Three weeks of class, three profs and I need this courses to graduate,” said another former student.
Diab started teaching the class after the instructor who was originally scheduled to teach, George Pollard, became ill one week into the summer course, which started the first week of July.
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March says she took over from Diab because it became “difficult to have him in this class,” but that she was “not coerced” into teaching.
The reasoning for the professor’s dismissal, according to Carleton’s release, was “in the interest of providing its students with a stable, productive academic environment that is conducive to learning.”
The announcement came following reports from several media sources, including the July 27 Ottawa Citizen article, concerning Diab’s new teaching assignment, and criticism from the Canadian national office of B’nai Brith, an international Jewish human rights advocacy group.
The group issued a statement July 28, saying, “the conditions of Diab’s bail do not even allow him to leave his home alone or to own a cell phone, but Carleton officials believe that it is fine for them to make him a member of their faculty? The last place in the world where this man belongs is in a university classroom, in front of impressionable students.”
CUPE Local 4600, the union representing Carleton teaching assistants and contract instructors, said in a open letter addressed to Carleton president Roseann Runte, obtained by the Charlatan July 29, that they are “extremely concerned” about Diab’s dismissal.
“Mr. Diab has the right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty,” it read.
In the letter CUPE also raised the fact that Diab was fired after he had already been teaching the course under contract; his sudden dismissal may go against the collective agreement the union has with the university.
CUPE 4600 said they are urging the university “to balance public opinion with the law and a sense of professional integrity.”
The Canadian Association of University Teachers also said in a release July 29 that it “condemns in the strongest possible terms” the change in professors.
It goes on to say that Carleton’s actions “represent a serious violation of basic rights and procedures” and that they are calling for the school to reinstate Diab.
The department of sociology and anthropology at Carleton has said they will not be releasing the name of the course’s new professor until July 30, after the class is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.
On Carleton Central — Carleton’s course registration website — the instructor for the class has changed from Hassan Diab, who was still listed July 28, to “TBA.”
Diab was arrested in November 2008 and accused of killing four as a result of the 1980 terrorist blast which was blamed on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-Special Operations after no one claimed responsibility.
As part of his bail conditions granted on March 31 of this year, Diab has been outfitted with an electronic monitoring bracelet, is under house arrest when not attending work and must obey a curfew and refrain from owning a cellphone, among other impositions.
According to the Citizen, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger said the strict conditions were necessary to prevent the risk of Diab fleeing the country before he is to appear at an extradition hearing to face murder and destruction of property charges in France.
The Citizen also reported Diab was to be allowed to travel to Carleton accompanied by court-appointed surety and his common-law spouse, Rania Tfaily, also a Carleton sociology professor, to teach the course that is scheduled twice a week.
Diab told French newspaper Le Figaro during an interview in 2007 (as translated by the Citizen): “I am a victim of mistaken identity not based on anything . . . I have never belonged to any Palestinian organization, nor have I been militant politically.”
Diab has previously taught courses at both Carleton and the University of Ottawa.
The university has said it is not commenting further on the issue.
Neither Diab’s lawyer or Tfaily, were available for comment.
Diab faces his extradition hearing Jan. 4, 2010.
— a version of this story appeared in the August edition of the Charlatan, Carleton University’s student independent newspaper