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Suspect in 1980 Paris synagogue bombing released on bail

The synagogue on Paris's rue Copernic after the bombing in 1980 AFP/Delmas

The chief suspect in a 1980 bomb attack on a Paris synagogue has been freed on bail. Hassan Diab, 62, will be placed under house arrest with an electronic bracelet. A French Jewish leader described the move as "scandalous and irresponsible".

Diab, 62, a Lebanese-Canadian sociology professor, is accused of involvement in the bombing on 3 October 1980, which killed four people and injured about 40.

It was the first major attack on a Jewish target since World War II.

He was released on bail on Saturday and assigned to house arrest after being held in prison for 18 months.

Prosecutors appeal

Paris prosecutors have appealed against the decision and a new hearing will take place on 24 May.

Diab was extradited from Canada in November 2014 and charged with murder, attempted murder and destruction of property as part of a terrorist enterprise.

He has always maintained his innocence and denied membership of the People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine-External Operations (PFLP-EO), which was blamed for the bombing.

A judge last week ruled that there was a doubt on the "fundamental question" of whether Diab was in France at the time.

That was because of testimony in April from his ex-wife that he took her to Beirut airport on 28 September, a date on which the owner of the passport identified as Diab's was already in France, according to the stamps in it.

Diab claims that the accusation is based on evidence against someone who shares his name and that he was a student in Beirut at the time of the attack.

The judge said his ex-wife's statement should be treated with caution, particularly since it had come so late, but had to be investigated, especially in Lebanon.

Jewish leader slams decision

Roger Cukierman, the leader of France's Jewish umbrella group, the Crif, called the decision "scandalous and irresponsible" and an "insult to the victims and their families", which "will be seen as being sift on terrorism".

Lawyers for the victims say that the partial liberation means the courts are no longer committed to a deadline and the case should drag on for years.

Diab's lawyer, William Bourdon, said there was no risk of flight and said that case against his client had been weakened over the course of recent hearings.

Diab's extradition from Canada provoked opposition from colleagues and sympathisers.

Palestinian terror faction

The PFLP-EO was founded by Wadie Haddad and launched international attacks that were not sanctioned by the PFLP and criticised by the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Haddad worked with the Abu Nidal organisation, accused of involvement in a 1982 attack on a Jewish area of Paris, and Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, who is currently in prison in France for terror attacks.

He died in 1978 in what was then East Berlin.