TORONTO – The trial for two men accused of planning a terrorist attack on a passenger train travelling between Canada and the U.S. has begun with the Crown prosecutor outlining months of plotting allegedly carried out by the pair.
Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier are both charged in the alleged Via Rail plot and have appeared before a jury in Toronto.
Crown lawyer Croft Michaelson says both men were motivated by Islamist extremism and had a plan to murder a number of people.
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He says they planned to damage a railway bridge that would cause a train travelling between Toronto and New York to derail, killing and injuring those on board.
He says Esseghaier had travelled to Iran in early 2012 and was acting on the instructions of “his brothers overseas.”
Michaelson says Jaser got involved with Esseghaier and indicated that he wanted to “conduct multiple missions so people would realize they would not be safe until they left homelands overseas.”
“At the conclusion of this case I anticipate that the evidence will satisfy you that there was a terrorist group operating in Canada in 2012,” Michaelson told the jury.
“That group consisted of Mr. Esseghaier acting on the instructions of his brothers overseas and came to include Mr. Jaser.”
An undercover FBI officer struck up a relationship with the two men, which was how many conversations about their plans were recorded, Michaelson said
“They discussed more than one ways to kill people,” he said. “One of them…was to derail a passenger train as it travelled between New York and Toronto.”
Jaser, a permanent resident of Palestinian descent, faces four charges, including commission of an offence for a terrorist group.
Esseghaier, a Tunisian national who was doing doctoral research on nanosensors in Quebec, is facing five charges, including participating in a terrorist group.
Esseghaier, who had requested a lawyer willing to use the Qur’an as a reference for the case instead of the Criminal Code, is representing himself at trial.
Not guilty pleas have been entered for both men.