News Canada

Man convicted in Via Rail terror plot expands his appeal

By Sam Pazzano, Toronto Sun

Chiheb Esseghaier arrives at Buttonville Airport just north of Toronto on April 23, 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Chiheb Esseghaier arrives at Buttonville Airport just north of Toronto on April 23, 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

TORONTO - 

Schizophrenic terrorist Chiheb Esseghaier is appealing his life sentence for masterminding a plot to derail Via Rail train because he was delusional when he received the harshest penalty in Canadian law, his court documents stated.

“When I filed my original notice of appeal, I was very ill. I suffer from schizophrenia,” stated Esseghaier in documents filed at the Ontario Court of Appeal on Wednesday.

“I have been diagnosed with this mental disorder by multiple doctors.”

Esseghaier, 34, a Montreal scientist, and former Toronto party-boy-turned Muslim extremist, Raed Jaser, 39, were tried on four terrorism charges, including a plot to derail a Via Rail train.

In 2015, Esseghaier was found guilty of all four charges, plus another he faced alone for participating in a terrorist group between Sept. 25, 2012 and Feb. 14, 2013.

Esseghaier wanted to bomb a railway bridge, derailing a Via train and killing innocent commuters, or poison soldiers on a military base. Jaser floated the idea of assassinating rich Toronto Jews with a sniper rifle.

Justice Michael Code branded Esseghaier as “remorseless and dangerous,” while calling Jaser “intelligent, devious and untrustworthy,” as the judge gave both terrorists life sentences for engaging in the most serious class of terrorism offence. Both are appealing.

“When I filed my original notice of appeal (in October 2015), I was suffering from delusions and believed that I would die, and my soul would ascend to heaven on Dec. 25, 2014,” stated Esseghaier.

“Because of these delusion, I did not believe that the life sentence imposed was real and didn’t want to acknowledge the existence or legality of the sentence by appealing it.”

Esseghaier said his change of heart - he was initially only appealing the convictions - occurred after he was treated for his illness since December when he was transferred to a prison in Abbotsford.

“I now know that these beliefs (Christmas Day ascension) are delusional,” wrote Esseghaier.

“I was certified and treated with anti-psychotic medication. Initially, I didn’t agree with this treatment. However, I now see its benefit,” stated Esseighaier. “I acknowledge that I have significant mental health issues and I understand that I need to continue to take the medication prescribed to me in order to stay well.”

Esseghaier stated the reason he didn’t file a sentence appeal earlier was that he “was very unwell and didn’t understand the nature of the sentence imposed on me.

“I was unable to make rational choices,” stated Esseghaier, who contacted lawyer Erin Dann, a court-appointed friend of the court, who’ll assist him in his application to extend the deadline to appeal on this new ground.

Esseghaier’s other grounds of appeal include:

-the Holy Quran “should be the basis of my trial, instead of the Criminal Code,” because the Code is written by humans while the Quran “is a holy book coming from God.

-Psychiatrist Dr. Lisa Ramshaw’s report stated he suffered from schizophrenia since 2009.

“I used to believe I was similar to the prophets Jesus and Joseph,” wrote Esseghaier.

-An undercover FBI agent, who posed as a wealthy American businessman willing to finance the terrorist plots, “motivated me to do plan for attack inside Canada by giving me money, free apartment, free meals and free travel,” wrote Esseghaier.

-Lastly, Esseghaier stated he was “unfit to stand trial” during his trial and sentencing.

Ironically, Esseghaier, who was analyzed by Dr. Ramshaw, told her that he didn’t believe he was mentally ill.

In her report filed in court in 2015, she diagnosed him as delusional and likely schizophrenic.

spazzano@postmedia.com