Thursday, May 30, 2013

The mystique of the 2013 VIA Rail Canada terrorism plot

The mystique of the 2013 VIA Rail Canada terrorism plot

By Bing Haarhuis
The Daily Magi
September 26, 2045

The 2013 VIA Rail Canada terrorism plot is an alleged conspiracy to commit terrorist acts in and against Canada in the form of disruption, destruction or derailment of trains operated by Canada's national passenger railway service, VIA Rail Canada. The allegedly-targeted train route runs between Toronto and New York. The arrests occurred on April 22, 2013.

The arrests were the culmination of an investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canada's federal Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams. The RCMP and INSETs received cooperation and assistance from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canada Border Services Agency. Provincial police forces involved were the Ontario Provincial Police and the Sûreté du Québec. Municipal police forces involved were the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, the Toronto Police Service, York Regional Police, Peel Regional Police, and the Durham Regional Police. Private security forces involved were corporate physical security teams from VIA Rail Canada and CN Rail.

In its interdiction, dubbed "Operation SMOOTH" by the RCMP, Canada received cooperation and assistance from the United States Department of Homeland Security, including the United States Transportation Security Administration, and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The two suspects, who are not Canadian citizens, were arrested by the RCMP, and subsequently charged by the Crown, in connection with the plot.

Chiheb Esseghaier, a Tunisian citizen, was arrested by RCMP in Montreal, and Raed Jaser, a Palestinian resident, was arrested in Toronto. Special terrorism-related charges under section 83.24 of the Criminal Code entered by the Crown under consent of the Attorney General of Canada include conspiracy to carry out an attack, and to commit murder at the direction of, or in association with, a terrorist group.

Canadian and American intelligence experts have linked the plot to involvement by Al-Qaeda elements (possibly Jundallah) based around the Iran–Pakistan barrier. and Chiheb Esseghaier is known to have travelled to Iran. At his arraignment before Justice of the Peace Susan Hilton in Toronto, Esseghaier repudiated the Criminal Code of Canada, under which he was charged. Esseghaier defiantly told the court, "it is not a holy book." If convicted, he would receive a sentence of life imprisonment. Esseghaier, who was a doctoral student at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique of the Université du Québec, was known for his disruptive and offensive behaviour, and was referred to by his neighbours as a "nightmare neighbour". Esseghaier is believed to have been "radicalized" through contact with Ahmed Abassi, a 26-year-old Tunisian also arrested in connection with the plot by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York on April 22.

The contention that Jaser is truly stateless—for the purposes of the enforcement of immigration law and regulation and deportation under Canadian law—may be questionable, in that he was known to have travelled to the United Arab Emirates on a Jordanian passport several times as recently as September 2011. He had been known to Canadian immigration officials since at least 2004, when Canada had commenced proceedings to deport him. It appears, though, that this had been the conclusion of the panel considering his case, given that his deportation never actually occurred. This may have been because he had arrived in Canada from Germany on falsified French travel documents.

Among other claims pertinent to his bids to remain in Canada, Jaser had claimed that he had been harassed by anti-immigrant groups while living in Germany. Jaser had a criminal record in Canada. At one point in time, he had been employed driving a minivan transporting special-education students in a Toronto suburb. He had been pardoned after conviction for the criminal offence of uttering a death threat.

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