November 20, 2017 5:39 pm

Canadian who plotted ISIS attack in New York taking antipsychotic drugs: documents

In this Saturday, July 16, 2016, photo, crowds of visitors linger in New York's Times Square - one of El Bahnasawy intended targets.

AP Photo/William Mathis
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A Canadian awaiting sentencing for plotting terrorist attacks in New York City for the so-called Islamic State is being treated with antipsychotic drugs, according to a court transcript obtained by Global News.

READ MORE: ‘I agreed to support ISIS’: transcript of Canadian’s confession about New York terror plot


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“I see a psychiatrist in the jail and I take the antipsychotic Geodon,” Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., told the judge at a U.S. District Court hearing two weeks ago.

Geodon is the brand name for ziprasidone, which is used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. El Bahnasawy said he took the drug daily. He had no other medical conditions and was not seeing any other doctors, he said.

The testimony offered new details about the mental state of the Kuwait-born Canadian, who has admitted the targets of the planned terror attacks were Times Square and the New York subway system.

New York subway map that U.S. prosecutors said was used by attack plotters.

El Bahnasawy spoke about “hallucinations” at a previous court sitting, according to documents obtained by Global News, which first reported on his unspecified mental health issues.

When he pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy charges on Oct. 13, 2016, El Bahnasawy, his lawyer and a federal judge all agreed he was competent. But his mental health could be a factor at his upcoming sentencing.

He faces a possible life sentence.

El Bahnasawy came to the attention of U.S. authorities after he began corresponding online with a man he thought was an extremist but who was actually working undercover for police.

“These Americans need an attack … I wanna create the next 9/11,” El Bahnasawy wrote. His “main intention,” he wrote, was “to please Allah by dying for him.”

The attacks were to occur in June 2016, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, U.S. authorities said. El Bahnasawy purchased bomb-making materials in Ontario and sent them to the informant.

The FBI arrested El Bahnasawy in New Jersey in May 2016. Five months later, he pleaded guilty but the case was kept under seal until last month, when an alleged co-conspirator was arrested in Pakistan and the suspected financier was taken into custody in the Philippines.

 

WATCH: 19-year-old Mississauga man pleads guilty to terrorism charges stemming from a plot to attack NYC

El-Bahnasawy faced pressure to hire Omar Khadr’s lawyer

El-Bahnasawy’s use of antipsychotics came up at a Nov. 7 hearing to decide whether to allow him to drop his federal defenders and bring in new lawyers, including Dennis Edney of Edmonton, who represents Omar Khadr.

Dennis Edney right, arrives at court hearing in Edmonton, Alta., with Omar Khadr on Friday, September 11, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Previously, El Bahnasawy had written to the judge to say he did not want Edney to visit him and that he wanted to keep his attorney, Sabrina Shroff. But on Sept. 24, he wrote that his parents were “very distressed and sad” that he had not taken on Edney and two other lawyers.

“My mom was crying and begging me,” he wrote.

But he told the judge at the hearing he was not satisfied with his legal representation and denied his change of heart was the result of pressure from his parents. “I just stopped liking the federal defenders,” he said.

READ MORE: Canadian’s involvement in New York terror plot highlights Islamic State’s global reach: experts

Edney told the court the parents had approached him about a year ago for advice on their son’s case. He said he had visited El Bahnasawy three times and had encouraged him “quite strongly” to cooperate with the FBI.

He said his role was to give advice about steps he could take under the treaty that allows Canadians convicted in the U.S. to transfer to Canadian prisons.

Edney said he had contacted El Bahnasawy’s lawyer but “our conversation didn’t go well.” He said she “screamed at me on the phone” and he eventually “withdrew from further communications with her.”

He said El Bahnasawy told him he was being “pressured” by his lawyer. “He told me that he was told by Ms. Shroff that I was a bad lawyer,” Edney told the judge.

Hydrogen peroxide that US prosecutors said El Bahnasawy purchased as part of alleged New York terror plot.

El Bahnasawy also said Shroff had concerns about a former Guantanamo Bay psychiatrist that Edney wanted to introduce to him. “He told me that Ms. Shroff stated that that psychiatrist was not well thought of.”

Shroff said that because the case was sealed at the time, she was not permitted to discuss it with Edney. “We made sure to represent Mr. Bahnasawy to the best of our abilities,” she said.

She also said she had retained a different Canadian lawyer, John Norris, “to make sure that Mr. Bahnasawy’s interests in Canada were properly evaluated and properly taken care of.”

The judge denied the request to change lawyers and gave El Bahnasawy more time to think about it. The matter was scheduled to return to court on Tuesday. A change in lawyers would likely delay sentencing, which had been set for Dec. 12.

Stewart.Bell@GlobalNews.ca

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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