US & Canada

Canada rail plotters sentenced to life in prison

Chiheb Esseghaier, one of two suspects accused of plotting with al-Qaida in Iran to derail a train in Canada, arrives at Buttonville Airport just north of Toronto, on 23 April 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption Chiheb Esseghaier served as his own legal counsel

A Canadian court has sentenced two men to life in prison for plotting to derail a train from New York to Toronto.

Raed Jaser, a Canadian resident of Palestinian descent, and Tunisian migrant Chiheb Esseghaier were convicted in March.

The pair were arrested in 2013 after an undercover FBI operation.

Prosecutors alleged the two men spent months plotting to kill as many people as possible on the VIA rail route.

"These are the most serious of terrorism offences, designed to result in indiscriminate killings of innocent human beings," Justice Michael Code said, according to the CBC.

Prosecutors said the men hoped the attack would encourage the US and Canadian governments to withdraw troops from Muslim countries.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Raed Jaser

Esseghaier refused to acknowledge the authority of the court and served as his own legal counsel.

He argued that the Koran should be used as the sole legal reference.

'Planning stage'

Esseghaier, 31, was studying for a doctorate at the National Institute for Scientific Research near Montreal, while Jaser, 37, reportedly worked as a customer service agent at a removal firm.

Canadian media say an investigation was launched after a tip-off by a concerned imam in the Toronto Muslim community.

At the time of their arrest Royal Canadian Mounted Police Chief Superintendent Jennifer Strachan said the attack was "definitely in the planning stage but not imminent".

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