According to a press release from the FBI, authorities announced today that Ahmed Abassi, a Tunisian citzen, was charged for fraudulently applying for a United States work visa to facilitate an intentional act of terrorism. Here's what you need to know.
1. He's Blamed for "Radicalizing" Chiheb Esseghaier
Abassi is blamed for "radicalizing" Chiheb Esseghaier, one of the men charged with an alleged al-Qaeda-backed plot to derail a Canadian passenger train. Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, face charges that include conspiring "with each other to murder unknown persons for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group." While in the United States, Abassi met with Esseghaier before he was arrested in Canada, where he is currently incarcerated.
2. He Was Duped by Undercover Agents
Abassi previously lived in Canada and traveled to the U.S. in mid-March. While in the U.S., he was under surveillance by law enforcement agents at all times and even kept in regular contact with an undercover FBI agent. The undercover officer met with both Abassi and Esseghaier and recorded conversations in which Abassi discussed his desire to engage in acts of terrorism against the U.S. and to support other terrorist groups, including the Nusrah Front, recognized by the Department of State as an alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq.
3. Their Plot Included Air or Water Contamination
Abassi and Esseghaier discussed plans for a proposed terrorist plot to contaminate air or water with bacteria that would kill 100,00 people.
4. Abassi Was Arrested on April 22
He was arrested on April 22 and was arraigned on May 2.
“As alleged, Ahmed 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, and to use this country as a base to support the efforts of terrorists internationally," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. "Thanks to the extraordinary vigilance of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners, Abassi has been thwarted and is being prosecuted for his alleged crimes. Protecting the residents of the Southern District, and all Americans, from terrorists is the number one priority of this office.”
The following is Abassi's indictment.
5. He Faces Up to 50 Years in Prison
The indictment charges Abassi with "two counts of knowingly making false statements in an application to the immigration authorities for a green card and work visa in order to facilitate an act of international terrorism." Each count holds a maximum of 25 years in prison.