Abassi made clear that he wanted to obtain immigration documents and to remain in the United States so that he could engage in “projects” relating to future terrorist activities, including recruitment.
A Tunisian man accused of participating in an Al Qaeda-linked plot to derail a passenger train between New York and Toronto last year pleaded guilty on Tuesday to visa fraud charges.
Ahmed Abassi, 27, told Manhattan Federal Court Judge Miriam Cedarbaum he lied about why he’d flown to the U.S. when he filled out a green card application and when he was interviewed by a federal agent.
“I said I was going to work in the real estate field,” Abassi said. “It was not true.”
When he was arrested after landing at Kennedy Airport in April of last year, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said “Abassi had an evil purpose for seeking to remain in the United States — to commit acts of terror and develop a network of terrorists here.”
The feds said he’d plotted to derail a Toronto-bound train, or contaminate “the air or water with bacteria to kill up to 100,000 people.”
His lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, accused investigators of entrapment, saying an undercover agent lured him to the U.S. by promising to help him get a Canadian visa so he could reunite with his wife in Quebec.
“My entire purpose was to return to Canada and reunite with my wife,” he told Cedarbaum.
There was no mention of terrorism during his guilty plea. He faces up to six years in prison when he’s sentenced on July 23.
His lawyer is asking that he get time served for the year he’s already spent behind bars.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, he’ll be deported to Tunisia after he’s sprung.