Ahmed Abassi, a Tunisian accused by the U.S. of “radicalizing” a Canadian charged with an al-Qaeda plot to derail a passenger train, pleaded guilty to lesser charges of lying to immigration officials about his employment.
Abassi, 27, told U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum in Manhattan today that he falsely claimed in a visa application that he would work as a real estate agent in the U.S. and also lied about his job in a permanent resident work permit.
When the charges against Abassi were announced last year, the U.S. said he intended to commit acts of terrorism, including a scheme to release bacteria that he hoped would kill as many as 100,000 people. The U.S. also said Abassi had “radicalized” Chiheb Esseghaier, who was arrested and charged by Canadian authorities with the Via Rail train plot on April 22, 2013, the same day Abassi was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Abassi told the judge today that he was studying at Laval University in Quebec and went home to Tunisia to get married. When he attempted to return, he discovered his student visa was canceled. Abassi said a man he knew as “Tamer,” whom he previously met in Canada, persuaded him to come to the U.S. and claim he was going to work in real estate. Abassi said he agreed to lie to U.S. authorities, hoping that way he could more easily return to Canada and complete his studies.
Sabrina Shroff, Abassi’s lawyer, said Tamer was an undercover agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who she has alleged entrapped her client.
“I stated on my visa application that my intention was to enter the United States to engage in business,” Abassi told Cedarbaum. “I lied because my entire purpose was to return to Canada,” he said.
Shroff said at a prior hearing that her client was lured to the U.S. by the undercover agent’s promise of a luxury life in Manhattan. Abassi refused to engage in “any concrete plan of terrorism,” she said.
Abassi has been in custody since his arrest. Shroff said during today’s hearing that she intended to ask Cedarbaum to impose no further prison time on Abassi when he’s sentenced on July 23.
“I hope this means that you will always be truthful and I wish you good luck,” Cedarbaum told Abassi as he was led away in shackles by deputy U.S. marshals.
“Thank you your honor, I will try to be,” he responded.
The case is U.S. v. Abassi, 13-cr-00304, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). For Related News and Information: