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

Mon Jul 14, 2014 8:43pm 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 asked 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."

Abassi's lawyer Sabrina Shroff pushed back in a court filing on Monday, writing that Abassi "steadfastly refused" to commit an act of terrorism.

"If Ahmed was really such an extremist... Ahmed would have acted, and this would be a terrorism case," Shroff wrote. "It is not, and the Court should not treat it like one for sentencing purposes."

Charges against Abassi were unsealed in May 2013. Prosecutors then 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.   Continued...