(photo credit: INGIMAGE/ASAP)
Two suspects were charged in Canadian court with planning to derail a train traveling from Toronto to New York, Toronto jurors heard on Monday.
The pair were initially arrested in 2013 on suspicions that they were working on behalf of al-Qaida, face five terrorism related charges each and had pleaded not guilty.
The two men, including a Tunisian PhD candidate in Montreal named Chiheb Esseghaier and a Palestinian named Raed Jaser, were thwarted by an undercover police officer who convinced that he would aid them in their efforts.
The prosecution's lawyers laid out the two suspects radical Islamist ideology at the trial's opening, asserting evidence that Esseghaier told the undercover officer that he had met with "mujaheddin", or holy warriors, in Iran and that the pair were motivated especially by the presence of Canadian and American troops in Muslim countries.
According to the officer, Esseghaier was sent back to Canada after meeting with his fundamentalist cohorts in the Islamic Republic
Beyond the train plot, the two were also involved in a plan to assassinate world leaders using a sniper rifle as they attended the G8 summit which is often hosted in Canada.
"We don't want the sheep. We want the wolf", Jaser had told the undercover officer when speaking of eliminating the politicians.
Canada has been struck by a string of recent terrorist attacks, including a shooting rampage in its capital in which a Muslim convert fatally short a Canadian soldier, as well as a "hit and run" attack in which another soldier was killed by a radicalized Muslim.
Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, responded harshly to these attacks, condemning them and even drawing a link between the violence and the services attended at mosques, rhetoric that Muslim leaders in Canada suggest is harmful to the integration of Muslim communities into wider Canadian society.
"Jihadi terrorism as it is evolving is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced," said Harper at a meeting held last month. "Violent jihadism is not a human right. It is an act of war."
The meeting was convened as Mr. Harper's conservative government introduced more hawkish legislature to confront extremism in the country through which the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the country's spy agency, will be granted unprecedented powers, including the ability to interfere with travel plans and communication.
The identity of the officer, who will be the first witness in the trial and is expected to remain on the stand for at least six weeks, will be withheld for his own safety as the trial progresses.
Jaser's father and lawyer both declined to comment on the case. Esseghaier has refused to acknowledge the authority of the Canadian legal system and has not retained any legal counsel.