Two men with alleged al-Qaeda links have been granted a retrial by the Court of Appeal for Ontario. 

Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser were found guilty and sentenced to serve life in prison in 2015 for plotting to carry out a terrorist attack on a passenger train. Essaghaier is a Tunisian citizen while Jaser is Palestinian and allegedly stateless.

The decision released by the court cites “a legal error by the trial judge” related to the composition of the jury.

“The trial judge’s error here took one of the three options, the exclusion of unsworn jurors while using rotating triers, away from Jaser,” wrote the three justices involved in the decision.

The plot by Esseghaier and Jaser was thwarted by police in 2013 after a year-long investigation dubbed “Operation SMOOTH”.

“Had this plot been carried out, it would have resulted in innocent people being killed or seriously injured,” said RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia at the time.

According to the police, the pair had already picked a route for the attack and had been observing the trains in their planning stages. 

Both Jaser and Esseghaier were suspected to have been “receiving support from al-Qaeda (sic) elements in Iran”.

Prior to his terror activities, in 2004 Canadian officials decided against deporting Jaser over convictions for fraud. His alleged status as a “stateless person” was the reason behind the decision. 

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada has said it “will proceed with the prosecution of Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser for terrorism offences”. 

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