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Judge says further mental assessment in Via terror case ‘complicated’ issue

Chiheb Esseghaier, one of two suspects accused of plotting with al-Qaida in Iran to derail a train in Canada, arriving at Buttonville Airport just north of Toronto on April 23, 2013. A Toronto judge was supposed to rule today on a Crown request for an assessment to determine whether a man convicted of plotting to derail a passenger train is fit to be sentenced.
Chiheb Esseghaier, one of two suspects accused of plotting with al-Qaida in Iran to derail a train in Canada, arriving at Buttonville Airport just north of Toronto on April 23, 2013. A Toronto judge was supposed to rule today on a Crown request for an assessment to determine whether a man convicted of plotting to derail a passenger train is fit to be sentenced. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO – A Toronto judge said he needed more time to consider whether a further mental health assessment was necessary for a man found guilty in a terror plot to derail a passenger train, calling the matter a “very complicated” one during a court session on Friday.

The issue of Chiheb Esseghaier’s mental health, which came up during his sentencing hearing, has brought into question whether the Tunisian national is fit to participate in the legal process.

READ MORE: Crown asks for fitness assessment of man convicted in Via Rail terror plot

Justice Michael Code has been mulling over whether to order a fresh mental health assessment after Crown lawyers said they want one.

That followed an assessment from a psychiatrist who testified she believed Esseghaier is unable to participate in his sentencing hearing because he is likely schizophrenic.

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READ MORE: Man convicted of plotting to derail Via train removed from Toronto courtroom

Code was to deliver his decision on ordering a further assessment on Friday afternoon but when court reconvened, he said the issue is “much more complicated” than he thought.

Code said he still hadn’t decided if a second assessment for Esseghaier was needed, and even if it was, he said there were serious jurisdictional issues around assessing the mental fitness of someone who has already been convicted.