Chiheb Esseghaier, an al-Qaeda terrorist backed by Iran, plotted in 2013 to derail a passenger train running from Toronto to New York. An FBI agent posing as a sympathizer tipped off Canadian authorities, who busted Esseghaier and accomplice Raed Jaser before they could blow up a railway bridge.
Before trial, Esseghaier acted strangely, comparing himself to Jesus and the prophet Joseph, and claimed he wanted to set off a volcano. On the other hand, he furiously denied that he was delusional, proclaimed his fitness to stand trial, and sought to be judged by the Quran because the criminal code was “not a holy book.” The Canadian court didn’t buy the argument and gave both terrorists a life sentence. Now as Richard Warnica of the National Post reports, Esseghaier is reversing himself.
“I believe I was unfit to stand trial,” he wrote in a document filed with the Ontario Court of Appeal on July 25. As Warnica explains, “Everyone involved, from the police, to the prosecutors and the judge, believed he was a fanatic, so no one noticed he was insane, at least not until it was too late. As a result, he went through his entire trial without several key questions — about criminal responsibility and fitness to stand — being tested. He was allowed to represent himself, and mount no real defense, even as he visibly unraveled in open court.”
According to John Norris, who represented Jaser, “I think we were all somewhat guilty of assuming he was saying things a radical Islamist would say.” So his signs of mental illness got by everybody and the whole process might have been tainted. That invites a review of Esseghaier and Jaser’s plot to murder innocent people by derailing a train.
The two Muslims, neither a Canadian citizen, “were receiving support from al-Qaeda elements located in Iran,” according to RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia. Video surveillance showed them scouting potential targets.
In secretly recorded conversations they discussed the plot with the undercover FBI man, posing as a wealthy Egyptian-American real estate developer. He tipped off the Mounties and the ensuing “Operation Smooth” prevented massive loss of life.
“Terrorism continues to be a real threat to Canada,” said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who ascribed the success of the operation “to the fact that Canada works closely with international partners to combat terrorism.” Toews proclaimed, “Our government remains unwavering in its commitment to protect Canadians and support the global fight against terrorism. Canada will not tolerate terrorist activity, and we will not be used as a safe haven for terrorists or those who support terrorist activity.”
Esseghaier was born in Tunisia and came to Canada to seek a PhD. His alleged mental health issues came up in trial but judge Michael Code wasn’t fooled. “The evidence is overwhelming that he was not delusional or psychotic at the time of the offense” and mental health was not an issue in the sentence.
Judge Code called Raed Jaser, “intelligent, devious and untrustworthy,” adding, “he has not yet accepted responsibility for the offences, not yet expressed remorse, not yet renounced his violent and racist beliefs.” True to form, Jaser openly praised Egyptian jihadist patriarch Sayyid Qutb.
For plotting to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group, the two Muslims got a life sentence, with ten years before possibility of parole. Jaser’s attorney John Norris considered the punishment “excessive.”
For Crown prosecutor Croft Michaelson, “That message is if you commit terrorist offences in Canada, with the intention of causing indiscriminate killing, you’re going to pay a very heavy price.” That might now stand in doubt.
As Warnica explains, Esseghaier has been “undergoing treatment,” with “anti-psychotic drugs” in a British Columbia prison and psychiatrists believe he is “severely mentally ill and almost certainly schizophrenic.” This is the diagnosis the convicted terrorist once rejected but now accepts, proclaiming that he was unfit to stand trial and hoping to appeal his life sentence. In that cause, the Tunisian terrorist has a few things working for him.
It has long been evident that radical Islamic terrorists have mastered the vocabulary of political correctness. They also know how to jouer la comédie with psychiatrists and the establishment media applaud the act.
Esseghaier’s trial took place during the administration of Stephen Harper, a hardliner on terrorism and a great friend of Israel. Justin Trudeau now holds forth, and his administration prefers to stand on guard for terrorists, not Canada’s allies and friends.
Witness the $10.5 million gift to al Qaeda fighter Omar Khadr, a convicted terrorist killer, accompanied by an official apology from the Canadian government. That could have prompted the aspiring mass murderer to mount a surge.
“I also will be released,” Esseghaeir told Dr. Lisa Ramshaw before the trial. “God is going to release me.” God might not, but it would come as no surprise if the current Canadian government turned loose the Tunisian in fine style.