POLITICS

Judge gives jury 'road map' of key evidence in Via train terror trial

03/10/2015 12:08 EDT | Updated 05/10/2015 05:59 EDT
A jury on the cusp of deliberating the fate of two men accused of a plot to derail a passenger train was given a "road map" Tuesday of what was considered the most important evidence at the pair's trial.

In his third instalment in a lengthy set of instructions to jurors, Justice Michael Code discussed what he believed were the key elements at the trial of Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier.

The men face four terror-related charges each, and Esseghaier, who has chosen not to participate in his trial, faces a fifth separate terror charge. Not guilty pleas have been entered for both men.

"I'm trying to highlight what strikes me as important, knit it together to give you a coherent chronology, a road map through the evidence," Code told the jury.

The most important evidence in the case was secretly recorded conversations between the two accused and an undercover FBI agent who gained their trust, as well as "related circumstantial evidence" on what Jaser and Esseghaier actually did, Code said.

Code focused in particular on a discussion between all three men that took place during a late-night walk in early September 2012.

"It is an important piece of evidence as it is the first recording that you have of a discussion between the three of them and where they discuss the subject matter of the charges," he said.

The jury was reminded that the trio discussed the alleged train plot, extremist motivations for the alleged project, and an alleged "sniper plot" idea of Jaser's.

Code also reminded the jury that the undercover agent testified that they said a prayer at the end of their walk "because they were about to embark on a mission."

The conversation was also one in which Jaser was heard saying he wanted "the whole country to burn," and Esseghaier was heard saying the alleged train plot was a "very good mission."

"The conversation ....is relevant to the issues of agreement and intention, as required by the law of conspiracy," Code said.

Code also highlighted a conversation Jaser, Esseghaier and the undercover agent had while sitting in a park gazebo one day, noting that the FBI officer testified that Jaser started crying at one point during the discussion which involved much talk of religion.

It was in that conversation that Jaser was heard saying "Islam is here to conquer, not as an option," and Esseghaier talked about his two trips to Iran, where individuals he claimed were radicalized "brothers" gave him ideas for alleged terror plots.

The jury was reminded, as well, of Jaser's defence position — his lawyer, John Norris, has argued that Jaser was never interested in carrying out terrorist activities but instead wanted to extract money from Esseghaier and the undercover agent.

Code pointed out that during the conversation in the park, Jaser told the undercover agent that the alleged train plot couldn't move forward quickly because of a lack of funds, to which the undercover agent said he could provide anything that was needed.

"That particular excerpt was important to the defence and Mr. Norris stressed that in his jury address," he said, adding that Esseghaier later told the agent not to give Jaser money for any "personal issue."

The jury was reminded that Jaser had consequently asked the agent for money to help a Muslim woman he claimed needed assistance, and also asked him to fund a business proposal.

"(The undercover agent) agreed that he initially wondered whether Jaser was trying to get money out of him," Code told the jury. "Relate this conversation to the issue of whether Jaser's true objective and intention was to obtain money."

Code also took the jury in detail through evidence about a scouting mission Jaser, Esseghaier and the undercover agent had made to a railway bridge on the edge of Toronto which was the target of their alleged plot.

He noted that surveillance footage from the railway tracks and bridge the trio walked on, as well as the wiretap intercepts from the day "are all relevant to the central elements of agreement and intention that are required by the law of conspiracy."

The trial has heard Jaser eventually abandoned the alleged train plot, while Esseghaier allegedly continued to pursue it.