Skip to main content

Chiheb Esseghaier, one of two men accused of plotting a terror attack on rail target, is led off a plane by an RCMP officer at Buttonville Airport just north of Toronto on Tuesday April 23, 2013.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

A Toronto judge has decided to order a further mental health assessment for a man found guilty in a terror plot to derail a passenger train.

Justice Michael Code has made the order for Chiheb Esseghaier under Ontario's Mental Health Act in what he has called a very complicated matter.

In a long, detailed decision, Code emphasized that the issue before him was not whether Esseghaier had been mentally fit at the time of his trial, but rather whether he was fit now, as his sentencing hearing is underway.

One mental health assessment has already been conducted on Esseghaier at the request of a lawyer appointed by the court to assist the self-represented man through the legal process.

The psychiatrist conducting that analysis, Dr. Lisa Ramshaw, testified she believed Esseghaier is unable to participate in his sentencing hearing because he is likely schizophrenic.

That diagnosis, which Esseghaier called a bunch of "lies," led Crown lawyers to demand another assessment be ordered — an issue Code had to decide on.

Code said that Criminal Code provisions relating to fitness to stand trial didn't extend to sentencing proceedings, where someone has already been found guilty.

But he said a second assessment for Esseghaier could be ordered under provincial legislation.

Code noted that an important reason justifying a further assessment was that he was not happy with Ramshaw's assessment of Esseghaier.

"Dr. Ramshaw's report and testimony contained a number of serious flaws," he said. "The report that presently exists is unsatisfactory."

Esseghaier and his co-accused Raed Jaser were found guilty in March of a terror-related conspiracy to commit murder — which carries a sentence of up to life in prison — and six other terror-related charges between them.

Esseghaier is deeply religious and wanted to be tried under the Qur'an.

He has gone on rambling rants in the courtroom on occasion but his mental state only became an issue last week when court heard Ramshaw's testimony.

During Jaser and Esseghaier's trial, court heard that an undercover FBI agent gained the men's trust and surreptitiously recorded their conversations, which made up the bulk of the evidence in the case.

The two were recorded speaking about alleged terror plots they would conduct in retaliation for Canada's military actions in Muslim countries, including the derailment of a Via Rail train travelling between New York and Toronto.