Canada: Jihadists Receive Life Sentence for Mass Murder Train Plot

A police van carrying suspect Chiheb Esseghaier leaving Montreal's courthouse on April 23, 2013 after his court appearance on suspicion of what police say was an Al-Qaeda-backed plot to derail a Canadian passenger train in the Toronto area. Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, were arrested for allegedly planning to …
Steve Duguay/AFP/Getty Images

Two would-be Islamic terrorists will spend at least a decade in a Canadian prison after being convicted of multiple terrorism-related charges.  

Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier were plotting to commit a mass murder attack by detonating explosives on a railway bridge to derail a passenger train between New York and Toronto. The judge said that both men – Jaser, a 37-year-old permanent Canadian resident of Palestinian descent and Esseghaier, a 33-year-old Tunisian – expressed no remorse and seemed unlikely to rehabilitate themselves.  

Among the charges the men were found guilty of are conspiracy to commit murder and participating in/contributing to a terrorist group. They were sentenced to life, and won’t be eligible for parole for 10 years. 

The judge noted that the most important evidence was obtained by the FBI. An undercover FBI agent produced 25 hours of secretly-recorded conversations between him and the two would-be Jihadists. The agent posed as a wealthy Islamist Saudi Arabian interested in funding terrorism in Canada and the U.S. Jaser and Esseghaier also considered using a sniper rifle to murder “wealthy and prominent Jews” in Toronto.

Esseghaier’s lawyer attempted to have his client determined to be mentally ill, which would have lead to hospitalization rather than imprisonment if successful. Esseghaier wanted to be “judged under the Qu’ran.” He had gone on rambling rants and even prayed in the prisoner’s dock. He also spat at lawyers. The Crown argued that there was no causal link between his current mental state and his earlier crimes in 2012. In 2013, he said that Canada’s Criminal Code “is not a holy book” in the courtroom, dismissing its validity.

Life imprisonment is the most severe penalty in Canada for crime. Those given “life” sentences, however, are eligible for parole after 25 years. The Conservative federal government has put forward a “Life Means Life Act,” which would prevent the “most heinous” criminals from being released before 35 years, and only then at the discretion of the Minister of Public Safety. The proposed amendment to Canada’s Criminal Code is shaping up to be an election issue with Canadians going to the polls on October 19.

The most recent articles on this story from CTV, The Toronto Star, and the left-wing state broadcaster CBC do not identify the men as Muslims, and do not identify the political-religious motivations of the convicted men as either Islamic or Islamist. For years, the CBC has been receiving an average of over $1 billion in direct funding from Canadian taxpayers.

Given the recent media hoopla over the crisis of migrants and refugees from Syria and other Muslim-majority societies, the conviction of the Jaser and Esseghaier – two men lawfully within Canada – raises more questions about the risks to national security associated with proposals to import tens of thousands of Syrians and others from the Middle East and North Africa.  Canada had tried and failed to deport Raed Jaser in 2004.


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