2 men charged in Canada train terror get life in prison

AP News
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Posted: Sep 23, 2015 4:00 PM

TORONTO (AP) — Two men found guilty of plotting to derail a passenger train in Canada with support from al-Qaida were sentenced to life in prison Wednesday.

Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser must serve a minimum of 10 years before becoming eligible for parole on their life sentences.

A jury convicted Esseghaier, a Tunisian national, earlier this year of planning to derail a Via train heading from New York to Toronto and four other terror-related charges.

Jaser was found guilty of conspiring to commit murder in support of terrorism and two other charges. Jaser, who was born in the United Arab Emirates to Palestinian parents but is not an UAE citizen, was living in Toronto when he was arrested in 2013.

Investigators say the men received guidance from members of al-Qaida in Iran. Iranian government officials denied having anything to do with the plot.

Toronto Justice Michael Code found both men have not renounced their extremist beliefs, have not expressed remorse and present questionable prospects for rehabilitation.

"Code found that they were very serious and committed. He found that they were not remorseful and that there was really no indication of substantial rehabilitation. They're dangerous individuals and that came through in the life sentences," said prosecutor Croft Michaelson outside the Toronto courtroom.

During their trial, the court heard that an undercover FBI agent gained the trust of Jaser and Esseghaier and surreptitiously recorded their conversations, which made up the bulk of the case's evidence.

The two were recorded speaking about alleged terror plots they would conduct in retaliation for Canada's military actions in Muslim countries, including the derailing the New York-to-Toronto train.

A few weeks after Esseghaier and Jaser were arrested, FBI officials arrested a Tunisian man in New York who they said was linked to the rail terror plot.

Ahmed Abassi was charged with trying to remain in the United States illegally to build a cell for international acts of terror.

Prosecutors, in a letter submitted to a U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan, said Abassi had radicalized Esseghaier. But the U.S. government later admitted Abassi had refused an invitation to join Esseghaier in conspiring to derail a train between New York and Montreal.

Abassi pleaded guilty last year to lying about why he came to the United States in 2013 and was sentenced by a judge in New York to 15 months he had already served in prison last year. He was deported to Tunisia.