On Monday afternoon Chiheb Esseghaier was arrested without incident at a McDonald’s in the train station in Montreal.
Esseghaier, of the Montreal area, is one of two suspects named in an alleged Canadian terror plot to derail a train traveling between Toronto to New York. The 30-year-old Tunisian native was a Ph.D student believed to have been operating with the support of al-Qaeda.
The bearded and shackled suspect went before a judge Tuesday morning and denied charges, saying that conclusions had been drawn from facts and words “that are only appearances.”
Here’s what we know about him so far.
1.He is a Biotechnology Ph.D. Candidate
Thirty-year-old Esseghaier is a Tunisian industrial biologist who studied at the University of Sherbrooke in 2008 and 2009, the school confirmed Monday. An online biography for a Chiheb Esseghaier says he was born in Tunis and earned his Master’s degree at the capital city’s Intitut National de Sciences Appliquees et de Technologie before coming to Canada as a student.
According to the Montreal Gazette, Esseghaier has published several academic papers, at times as the lead author, and one of his areas of research was HIV antiviral drugs. He has participated in several conferences, including the Photonics North Conference in Montreal in June 2012 at the Bonaventure Hilton.
There was no answer when Heavy.com dialed work number listed on his blog.
2. Esseghaier Was Described as “Diabolical” and “Brainwashed” by People Who Knew Him
According to Canada’s National Post, the younger of two men charged in the al Qaeda train plot was threatened with expulsion for his disruptive behaviour and strict religious views that alienated his colleagues.
A colleague at Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) in Varennes, Que., told the National Post that Esseghaier “had very strict religious behavior that made many people frustrated” and that forced him to have many problems with the administration. The collegue continued to say that Essaghaeir was “a brainwashed person, basically,” who tore down posters he did not approve of, and pestered the administration to install a prayer room.
The Montreal Gazette interviewed a man from Essaghaier’s mosque who was shocked to hear the “diabolical ideas” the PhD student had to say about a year and a half ago.
“He was saying things like, ‘When you pay taxes here, you’re only helping Canadians,’ and I didn’t really understand and wanted to say, ‘If you don’t like it, leave the country’,” the man told The Gazette in a telephone interview. “I realized he had a very different vision and that I was wasting my time talking to him.”
According to the Daily Mail, Toronto’s Muslim community assisted authorities in the arrests. Police revealed that a prominent imam had come forward to tip off the security services that at least one of the suspects may have been plotting an attack. It is believed that either of the two suspects probably met with people in the religious community.
3. His LinkedIn Picture is a Jihadist Flag
His LinkedIn profile picture is, via Wikipedia, “a variant of the jihadist black flag. Islamic extremist organizations that used such a black flag include al‑Qaeda, al‑Shabaab, the Islamic Courts Union, the Islamic State of Iraq and Hizbul Islam.
4. He’s from Tunisia
5. In Court Appearance He Said He Did Not Recognize Canadian Law
According to the Toronto Sun, Chiheb Esseghaier told Toronto court Wednesday morning that he “doesn’t recognize the Criminal Code under which he faces five serious charges.”
“First of all my comment is the following,” the 30-year-old Montreal PhD student said in his first Toronto appearance. “Because all of those conclusions was taken out based on Criminal Code and all of us we know that this Criminal Code is not holy book, it’s just written by set of creations and the creations they’re not perfect because only the Creator is perfect so if we are basing our judgment … we cannot rely on the conclusions taken out from these judgments.”
Second terror suspect denounces Criminial Code in courtroom this morning: thestar.com/news/crime/201…
— Jennifer Pagliaro (@jpags) April 24, 2013