NEWS

Via Rail plot trial: Chiheb Esseghaier's lawyer seeks psych assessment

05/13/2015 11:45 EDT | Updated 05/13/2016 05:59 EDT
One of two convicted terrorists who plotted to derail a Via passenger train should have a psychiatric assessment, his lawyer argued in court Wednesday.

Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier returned to a Toronto courtroom Wednesday as their sentencing hearings continue. After being convicted of several terror-related charges in March, both men face a maximum punishment of life in prison.

On Wednesday, Esseghaier's lawyer asked that his client be given a psychiatric assessment, arguing it's a real issue in the case.

The lawyer suggested Esseghaier's hygiene habits — including washing his hair in a laboratory sink when he was a PhD student in Montreal — and other aspects of his behaviour may point to mental illness.

Esseghaier told the judge he would agree to a psychiatric assessment, but said agreeing to talk doesn't mean he believes he has mental health issues.

Judge Michael Code, who has presided over the lengthy trial, said it never occurred to him that Esseghaier suffered from a mental disorder.

The Crown opposed the idea, calling it groundless and saying it would slow down sentencing.

Jaser was also in court Wednesday. The two men sat far apart, as they have throughout the trial. 

In March, Esseghaier was found guilty of:

- Conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of a terrorist group.

- Conspiring to interfere with transportation facilities for the benefit of a terrorist group.

- Three counts of participating in the activities of a terrorist group.

Jaser was charged and found guilty of:

- Conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of a terrorist group.

- Two counts of participating in the activities of a terrorist group.

For more from the courtroom, follow the CBC's Laura Lynch on Twitter. 

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