U.S. pushes for prison for Tunisian accused of train plot link

Mon Jul 14, 2014 6:39pm EDT
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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors pushed Monday for a hefty sentence for a Tunisian man accused of ties to an unsuccessful plot to derail a Canada-U.S. passenger train who agreed last month to a plea deal that included no terrorism charges.

Ahmed Abassi, 27, faces sentencing by a federal judge in New York on Wednesday after previously pleading guilty to lying to immigration authorities about his occupation upon entering the United States last year.

Abassi's lawyer is expected to ask U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum to sentence him to time served, representing the period Abassi has spent in custody following his arrest in April 2013.

Prosecutors in a court filing acknowledged that Abassi faces no more than six months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. But they argued for a longer sentence, saying evidence showed that Abassi "was far more -- and far more dangerous -- than simply an immigration fraudster."

Charges against Abassi were unsealed in May 2013. Prosecutors at the time said he had discussed various plots with Chiheb Esseghaier, another Tunisian arrested in Canada.

U.S. officials have said Esseghaier had a plan that involved blowing up a trestle on Canada's side of the border as the Maple Leaf, Amtrak's daily connection between Toronto and New York City, passed over it.

In Monday's court filing, prosecutors said that in early 2013, Abassi, who had been living with his wife in Canada, went to Tunisia to visit family. While there, Canadian authorities revoked his visa because of the Esseghaier probe, without telling him the real reason, prosecutors said.

An undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent claiming to own a U.S. real estate company called Abassi in Canada and invited him to the United States, saying he could help get a visa, prosecutors said.   Continued...