TORONTO – A Canadian appeals court on Tuesday ordered a new trial for two men accused of plotting to derail a passenger train traveling between Toronto and New York, citing errors in the jury selection.
Tunisian national Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, a Canadian resident of Palestinian descent, were convicted in 2015 of an al-Qaida-backed conspiracy to commit murders and sentenced to life in prison.
But the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the trial judge mishandled the jury selection process, resulting in an “improperly constituted jury,” which means their verdict cannot stand.
The trial heard that the pair were “motivated by Islamic extremism and had planned terrorist attacks on non-Muslim targets or victims.”
The attack allegedly would have marked the start of a campaign of terror to try to convince Canada and its allies to leave Muslim lands.
Prosecutors said the pair had planned to cut a large hole in a railway bridge to derail a Via Rail train, with the aim of killing and injuring passengers and crew.
Esseghaier, who was doing doctoral research in Canada, acted on instructions from overseas extremists, they alleged.
Key evidence came in the form of recordings by an undercover FBI agent who befriended the pair.