Jury reaches verdict for one of two Via terror suspects; impasse for other

WATCH ABOVE: Angie Seth reports on the jury in the Via Rail trial which is at an impasse in deliberations.

TORONTO – A Toronto jury came to a unanimous decision Wednesday on the fate of one of two men accused in an alleged terror plot to derail a passenger train, but found themselves at an impasse on some of the charges against his co-accused.

The 12-member panel, which has been deliberating for eight days in the trial of Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier, did not reveal which of the two men they were disagreeing on, nor did they hint at which of the nine terror-related charges was causing their deadlock.

Jaser and Esseghaier were arrested in 2013 following an extensive investigation into the alleged plot to kill scores of people by derailing a train travelling between Canada and the U.S.

Both men are charged with two counts of conspiracy and two counts of participating in or contributing to a terrorist group. Esseghaier is also facing a fifth terror-related charge.

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Justice Michael Code, who has been presiding over the trial, asked jurors to continue their deliberations and attempt to reach a unanimous decision on all charges in the case.

“Would you please try once again to reach a verdict,” Code told the jury.

“This is a time for each of you to reflect further on the evidence to see whether by carefully considering the various positions and listening to each other you can come to an agreement and render a unanimous verdict.”

The jury revealed their impasse in a note delivered to Code on Wednesday afternoon.

The panel said it had found unanimous verdicts for one accused on each count he faced, but had only agreed on verdicts for two counts faced by the other accused.

“On the remaining counts we are unable to reach an agreement,” the jury wrote. “There seems to be no path to consensus.”

READ MORE: Via Rail terror suspect tried to deradicalize co-accused: court document

The jury asked Code for advice on how to proceed and for suggestions on resolving their situation.

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Code explained he had the authority to discharge the jury if it appeared that further deliberations would be useless, but he emphasized that it was not a power he would exert lightly.

“Often, when we allow juries more time to deliberate they are able to reach an agreement,” he said. “You should keep an open mind and consider carefully the views of your fellow jurors.”

The revelation of the jury’s impasse came just a few hours after they were instructed that they needed to find Jaser and Esseghaier “genuinely meant” to bring about the alleged plot to carry out the train derailment, as opposed to feigning that intention.

Those instructions from Code were in response to a question from the jury on the element of intention required to form a conspiracy.

READ MORE: What we know about an unidentified FBI agent who testified at Via Rail trial

The jury’s question appeared critical to 37-year-old Jaser, who, his lawyer argued, was never actually intent on carrying out any terrorist activities, but was only feigning interest as part of an elaborate con to extract money from his co-accused and an undercover FBI agent who gained their trust.

The trial heard hours of secretly recorded conversations between Jaser, Esseghaier and the undercover agent in which they discussed plans to allegedly create a hole in a railway bridge outside Toronto to derail a passenger train and cause the deaths of scores of people.

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Jaser eventually dropped out of the alleged plot while Esseghaier continued to pursue it.

Crown prosecutors argued the two men made up an alleged terrorist group operating in Canada, and suggested the jury find both men guilty based on the “overwhelming” evidence against them.

Esseghaier did not defend himself at his trial but did give the jury a written closing statement in which he offered his “sincere advice” to the panel, urging them to apply the Qur’an to every aspect of their life.