Sentencing hearing to resume in Via Rail terror plot case

New mental health assessment ordered for Chiheb Esseghaier after last court session

TORONTO – A sentencing hearing is set to resume today for two men found guilty in a plot to derail a passenger train travelling between Canada and the U.S.

Chiheb Esseghaier and his co-accused, Raed Jaser, were found guilty in March of a terror-related conspiracy to commit murder — which carries a sentence of up to life in prison — and six other terror-related charges between them.

During their last court session in July, the Toronto judge presiding over the case ordered a second mental health assessment for Esseghaier after concluding that an earlier one had “serious flaws.”

Justice Michael Code had said the issue before him is whether Esseghaier is fit at the time of sentencing.

Esseghaier, who is self-represented, is deeply religious and has consistently maintained his desire to be judged under the Qur’an.

He has gone on rambling rants in the courtroom and even prayed in the prisoner’s dock, but his mental state only recently became an issue in the case after the findings of his first psychiatric assessment were presented in court.

Dr. Lisa Ramshaw, who conducted the assessment at the request of a court-appointed lawyer assisting Esseghaier, testified she believed he was unable to participate in his sentencing hearing because he is likely schizophrenic.

Esseghaier called that diagnosis a bunch of “lies.”

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