Inside terror suspect’s refugee claim

Court documents shed new light on accused Via Rail plotter’s journey to Canada


Courtroom sketch of Jaser.

The Toronto-based suspect in the alleged terror plot to derail a Via Rail train is part of a Palestinian family that felt aggrieved, persecuted and cast adrift after the creation of Israel forced them from their home, according to court documents viewed by Maclean’s.

Raed Jaser—now locked in a solitary jail cell—was 15 when he, his parents and his two younger brothers arrived in Canada from Germany, where they’d lived for two years. They had abandoned a refugee claim in that country in March 1993, citing anti-immigrant sentiment that culminated in someone throwing a Molotov cocktail into their home.

“Our lives were threatened and we were harassed and abused during the process of our refugee claims in West Germany,” Jaser’s father Mohammed wrote on a document filed with the court. “Ultimately, we were forced to flee in fear of our lives.”

Maclean’s viewed the full refugee file Tuesday. The full report about the claim and the Jaser family’s recent history is in this week’s issue of the magazine.

Mohammed applied on behalf of the family for asylum in Canada, telling a back story that dated to the creation of the Israeli state. When the claim was rejected over questions of credibility, he appealed to federal court and—with the consent of federal lawyers in 1995—was granted a new hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

The outcome of that hearing isn’t known: decisions of the IRB aren’t made available to the public unless the matter winds up before a court. But the Jasers did obtain residency and are “very well settled in Canada,” according to Raed’s lawyer, John Norris.

Raed Jaser is one of two suspects charged this week in an alleged terrorist plot the RCMP claims included “direction and guidance” from al-Qaeda elements in Iran. His co-accused, 30-year-old Chiheb Esseghaier, is a Tunisian PhD student at a Quebec university. During a brief court appearance Wednesday, he told a judge that the “Criminal Code is not a holy book, it’s just written by set of creations.” Both will remain behind bars until their next court appearance May 23.

Raed Jaser (Image courtesy CTV)

Whatever the facts surrounding Jaser’s arrest, the plight of stateless Palestinians is interwoven into his family’s history, evoking a discernible sense of resentment in their statements to Canadian refugee officials.

In 1948, Mohammed said, his family was forced from its home in Jaffa to make way for Jewish arrivals and retreated to camps in the Gaza Strip. “The Israeli government had established a policy of ‘religious cleansing,’” he wrote, “which promoted and forced the transfer of non-Jewish citizens and residents from the state of Israel. Our families were all forced into exile because of our identification as Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and most importantly as non-Jews.

“[The] Israeli army seized our land, confiscated our home and all our belongings. Our family was forced to attempt resettlement in the Gaza Strip where we lived in extremely harsh conditions after our exile. We lived in tents, through freezing winters and blazing hot sun. We were homeless and in poor health.”

Mohammed moved at the age of 19 to the United Arab Emirates and set himself up first as a purchasing officer in a garage, then as a school teacher and ad salesman for a newspaper. At some point he married Raed’s mother Sahab, and Raed, their eldest son, was born in the U.A.E. in December 1977.

They left, however, in the wake of the Gulf War of 1990, citing growing hostility toward Palestinians, who were seen as sympathetic to Iraq. Mohammed claims the family’s phone was tapped, and he was pressured by U.A.E. security officials to spy on other members of the Palestinian community there. They arrived in West Germany in 1991, settling in Berlin and applying for refugee status. They lasted just over two years, giving up on Germany after the Molotov cocktail incident. “We lived as outsiders, in fear of growing and hardening anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments,” Mohammed told the refugee board.

According to court documents, the family flew to Toronto on March 26, 1993 using fake French passports that they purchased from a Turkish contact living in Germany. They destroyed the documents after clearing passport control at the Frankfurt airport and claimed refugee status immediately upon arrival in Canada.

The influence of this upheaval on Raed, then in his early teens, is hard to know. But he appeared to have trouble integrating to life the Toronto suburbs where the family settled.

In October 1995, less than three years after he arrived in Canada, he was criminally charged in Newmarket, Ont., with fraud under $5,000. The charge was eventually withdrawn. In December 2000, a week after turning 24, he was arrested again, this time accused of uttering threats. Court records show Raed was convicted of that charge, but later pardoned.

Mohammed Jaser was so worried about his son’s increasingly radical views on Islam that he sought out the counsel of Muhammad Robert Heft, a Muslim convert who operates the Paradise Forever Islamic Centre, a place for new Muslims. Heft, 40, also runs a de-radicalization program for at-risk Muslim youths.

By sheer chance, Mohammed Jaser and his youngest son were already living in a basement apartment of a home in Markham that Heft purchased in 2009. Jaser and that son, who suffered a car accident many years ago that had left him unable to climb stairs, would live in Heft’s home for a year and a half.

Mohammed, Heft says, worked seven days a week driving a cab, but otherwise devoted himself to caring for his injured son. “I thought he was a hero,” says Heft. “He’s a fantastic man. I love the guy. He’s my friend.”

During that time, Mohammed Jaser learned of Heft’s outreach work as a Muslim youth counsellor, and of his de-radicalization program, and approached him with a sensitive problem. One of his other sons, Raed, was becoming deeply involved in his faith. Although initially Mohammed Jaser was pleased with this new development in his previously troubled son’s life, his zealous devotion to religion brought with it troubling consequences for the rest of his family.

“He came to me and he said one of his sons was becoming a little bit rigid, a little bit self-righteous, arrogant, aggressive, intolerant,” Heft told Maclean’s. “He was concerned enough to bring it to me.”

In particular, Raed Jaser raised issues with his family along the lines of the length of his father’s facial hair and the colour of his mother’s hijab. “They weren’t practicing Islam to the standard he was setting for himself,” Heft says.

Mohammed Jaser spoke to Heft about these conflicts with his son on numerous occasions. Heft promised Mohammed Jaser that he would talk to Raed. But work difficulties and Heft’s heavy travel schedule proved an obstacle, and that meeting with Raed never happened. Eventually, Mohammed Jaser and his younger son returned to live at the Jaser home in Markham.

Heft, one of the Muslim community members who the RCMP invited to the airport detachment on Monday before holding the press conference in which they unveiled the terror allegations, did not realize his connection with the accused, Raed Jaser, until watching the news on Tuesday night.

There, on the courthouse steps in Toronto, he saw his old tenant, Mohammed Jaser. “I had to take a double take,” Heft says.

Related coverage:

Filed under:

Inside terror suspect’s refugee claim

  1. This comment was deleted.

    • Obviously other Muslims would have been injured and/or killed as well, had this plot succeeded. Don’t blame a whole group of people for the actions of a few.

      • There’s a difference between blaming it on all Muslims, which is not appropriate, and on Islam, the ideology, which in perfectly mainstream forms gives rise to terrorism.

    • Wow your just full of it. Your saying this man and his family dont contirbute to the economy and dont generate tax revenue? Clearly you dont know how taxes work or the fact that after claiming refugee status people are integrated into society quickly to be productive.

      • HA HA HA. Did you just fall off the Moon? Are you smoking something as we speak?

  2. So the suspect ” . . . is part of a Palestinian family that felt aggrieved, persecuted and cast adrift after the creation of Israel forced them from their home . . . .” The main thrust of this article seems to be that we should have great sympathy for the suspect. What the article never calls attention to is the death and injury that his alleged plot would have brought to innocent people in Canada. It is pretty far-fetched to blame on Israel such blood-thirsty plotting against Canadians.

    • In any case he’s lying about what happened to his family. There was no policy of “religious cleansing” in Israel, and no Arabs were expelled from Israel. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the Arabs left at the behest of Arab leaders so as to clear the way for the invading Arab armies or out of fear, largely unjustified, that the Jews would do to them what Arab forces would do to the Jews. The many Arabs who remained in Israel were not expelled; they became citizens and now number 1.5 million. The situation of the Arabs who left is indeed unfortunate, but it is due to the poor advice of the Arab leadership, their own poor judgement, and the insistence of the Arab countries and the PLO leadership that they not be resettled and not be allowed to become citizens of other Arab countries. Thus we have the absurd tragedy of Arab “refugees” (most of whom never lived in Israel, which their parents and grandparents left 64 years ago) confined to refugee camps in the “Palestinian Territories”, which refuses to give them citizenship! The fault lies not with Israel but with the Arab refusal to accept the decolonization of the 0.2% of the “Arab” world that is Israel.

      • Yep,
        I have read that too. Besides I have Arab christian friends who leaves in Israel and he does very successful business. He also told me those stories that Arab countries were calling for Arabs to leave. That is how I started digging up.

        • You people are the liars. Thank good for the internet and anonymous which exposes all of this.

          • That was easy, let’s do the hard part. What I am lying about?

          • especially for you if it make any sense at all

            “According to a research report by the Arab-sponsored Institute for
            Palestine Studies in Beirut, however, “the majority” of the Arab
            refugees in 1948 were not expelled, and “68%” left without seeing an Israeli soldier”


            Peter Dodd and Halim Barakat, River Without Bridges.- A Study of the Exodus of the 1967Arab Palestinian Refugees (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1969), p. 43; on April 27, 1950, the Arab National Committee of Haifa stated in a memorandum to the Arab States: “The removal of the Arab inhabitants … was voluntary and was carried out at our request … The Arab
            delegation proudly asked for the evacuation of the Arabs and their removal to the neighboring Arab countries…. We are very glad to state that the Arabs
            guarded their honour and traditions with pride and greatness.

          • The Arab Refugee Problem (New York: Philosophical Library, 1952), pp.
            8-9; also see Al-Zaman, Baghdad journal, April 27, 1950

      • Terrific explanation! More people need to be aware of the facts, and need to think critically when offered a sob story from Palestinians. It is unfortunate, as you say, but they brought it upon themselves and innocent Israelis, or Canadians for that matter, should not have to pay the price. Let us also not forget that many palestinians who claim, like this man, to have been “driven” out of Israel upon the Jews’ arrival has to do in many cases with the fact that many palestinians were living illegally on land that had been bought by Jews during the zionist movement. So naturally, when the jews who had justly bought this property arrived in young Israel, they expected to be able to live in it!

    • Ted, I don’t necessarily read that we need to generate sympathy for the suspect. We do need to be aware of the root causes without assigning emotions for, or, against. Reason requires rational behavior to be practically applied effectively. Just observing something doesn’t make you a proponent of it. In my old life I see the effect of the American bombing of Dresden on my mother who survived it. Reason doesn’t hold a candle to the terror of the event, the changing of lives scars people forever. She didn’t have religious induced hate and I was educated in Canada with the “correct” political agenda. I was introduced one day to Lester B Pearson when my mother, a maid in the house he was staying, invited me up to meet him. I was fifteen and he made quite the impression. No one was taught to hate in our house but well into her late eighties my mother would upon occasion of bad news for America, secretly rejoice a tiny bit. How about you take that and multiply it by a million or billion and let it stew in families who are taught to hate, whose religions encourage hate and mix in the wide fluctuations in individual mental health and you will begins to see the wisdom of the concept of “do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.” I think American foreign and domestic policies are suicidal, yet I have rarely MET an American I didn’t like. It is important we stay rational, look unflinchingly and closely at what ails us and try not to repeat some of the worst tragedies of human history. It seems everybody has a nuke or deadly bio war stuff today. and what these two amateurs did is only the beginning. Who really cares that one was shot and the other captured. They caused terror and fear and had draconian responses in curtailing our liberties. All for the price of this amateur operation from the minds of mental midgets on religion. Wait till the copycats and wannabes try to ratchet up the score. Here we had a serial killer in charge of a major air force base, A guy who flew the Prime Minister, the Queen around. Think of what this guy could have done with different motivations to his criminal lunatic tendencies

  3. This family leaves one area of Palestine to go to Gaza, where the live on the dole for a few years. Then they go to the UEA and start to subvert that countries interests, they then go to Germany and live on the dole. They come to Canada and live on the dole an complain about it. Then one of these leeches tries to blow up a Canadian train and the Canadians on ti.

  4. I think the point of the article is to make you understand and empathize. Look at it this way Canada has never know war. Our people don’t know what its like to watch our neighbours our friends, and our loved ones be tortured, raped, murdered, and to be helpless to do anything about it. If your miscongruing this then your an idiot. Also I do believe that in a few decades we will be invaded and then you morons will understand.

    • Do you know what the war is? Do you know anything about any war?
      Based on what you are saying you know very little at most.

    • “Since 1948 it is we who demanded the return of the refugees… while it is we who made them leave…. We brought disaster upon … Arab refugees, by inviting them and bringing pressure to bear upon them to leave…. We have rendered them dispossessed…. We have accustomed them to begging…. We have participated in lowering their moral and social level…. Then we exploited them in executing crimes of murder, arson, and throwing bombs upon … men, women and children-all this in the service of political purposes …. [36]

      — Khaled Al-Azm, Syria’s PrimeMinister after the 1948 war

      Khaled Al-Azm, Memoirs [Arabic), 3 vols. (AI-Dar al
      Muttahida Id-Nashr, 1972), vol. 1, pp. 386-87, cited by Maurice Roumani, The
      Case of the Jewsfrom Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue, preliminary edition
      (Jerusalem: World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries [WOJAC], 1975), p.

    • Your hair dye.
      Must have soaked.
      Into brain.
      Go see doctor.

  5. Those poor guys and their poor families. Those boys have set Muslims up for the mistake that is being made now. I refuse to blame all for the idiocies of those boys. Boys. ‘What do you wanna do when you grow up, son?’ ‘Why, Dad. I wanna stand up for Islam, of course’.

  6. Don’t blame on anybody. Canada gaven him a new life and he wanted hurt innocent people. Be grateful what you have there’s millions worst in situation. Blame a pond himself.

  7. If Israel forced “everyone” into exile, then why are there over a million Israeli Arabs? Why are there so many Israeli Christians?

    Why is Macleans giving this man a stand to state his revisionist history?

  8. Ok we get it, the accused has had a troubled past. I wont claim to be able to understand his pain, I havnt lived his life.
    Now tne reality of it; we all have past issues, if we choose to let those issues drive us to plot the deaths of innocent people, your a criminal.. End of story..
    Lets move forward in a different outcome..
    The plot worked..
    How many stories could be told..
    How many tales of woe..
    How long would the hurt caused by this act cause pain in the lives of the innocent victims, family, freinds, society, (flown latley) Im glad for the secutity however..Wouldnt it be nice not to have to deal with it.
    So if the acused is guilty…Should we care about his past..
    He is a criminal end of story.
    Dealing with al-Qaeda..
    Can there be an excuse..
    My opinion..
    I have been to New York visited the World Trade Center site.
    Wept at the childrens stories about lost parents..
    I bet the criminals that hi jacked those planes had a sad past as well..
    So I say no excuse..
    I bet the criminals who hi hacked those planes had a few problems as well..
    So no if guilty..
    It doesnt matter..

    • It is not about finding an “excuse,” but it is about trying to understand reasons. Dare I use the term? “Root causes.” There, I did it. Motivation is always important.

      • The motivation is well easy to understand…
        They are criminals.
        Care less of others, even their own community.
        Can you ever excuse the taking of innocents for a cause..
        Root cause is a battle between two faiths.
        The attacks were to happen in Canada.
        Was he treated bad here..
        If he was address it through the law..
        Now if you are trying to say that we should profile all who might do the same and keep them out for our saftey thennnn…
        No we dont think that is a good idea. ?
        What is…

  9. We always imagined that Canada is protected against Islamic terrorism. What a
    disappointment! The truth is rather unpleasant for most Canadian dreamers: no Christian nation is terrorism-proof.
    Al Qaeda is neither the only nor the main Islamic terrorist organization; there are hundreds of them in hiding, waiting for the right moment to strike.
    After this ‘event’, the Federal and the Provincial Governments will be working together to protect the citizenry against the plague of the 21st century – Islamism.

    • We’re not a christian nation.

  10. Some facts for Leftards;

    Islamics Launched their Crusades in 630 A.D.
    Western Crusades started in 1095 A.D. to Stop Muslim Invasion

    The Crusades were started by the Muslims in the year 630 A.D. when
    Muhammad invaded and conquered Mecca. Later on, Muslims invaded Syria,
    Iraq, Jerusalem, Iran, Egypt, Africa, Spain, Italy, France, etc. The
    Western Crusades started around 1095 to try to stop the Islamic
    aggressive invasions. Islamic Crusades continued even after the Western

    Islam – Not a Religion of Peace
    Islam has killed about 270
    million people: 120 million Africans*, 60 million Christians, 80 million
    Hindus, 10 million Buddhists, etc.”

    Forced conversions to Islam have been the norm, across three continents—Asia, Africa, and Europe—for over 13 centuries.

    Orders for conversion were decreed under all the early Islamic
    dynasties, under both Seljuk and Ottoman Turkish rule, and in
    Persia/Iran and the Indian subcontinent, etc.

    Islam has been at a continuous war against non-Muslims for
    almost 1400 years (since Muhammad.)

    • 100% correct sir, the religion itself is evil in every aspect of the word, if people actually read and did their research they will see the facts are there and undeniable! Islam has factually killed more people then Hitler and his Nazi’s and we all can agree he was a monster, so why are we made to believe Islam is a peaceful? Wake up people and open your eyes to what is happening around you, do not trust a Muslim or Islam!

  11. “Feared for our lives” so what better way to express that by making other people fear for theirs thousands of km away. We need the death penalty in Canada.

  12. Canada needs to get rid of the refugee system all together.

  13. The article examines the causes, why and how these 2 people decided to do this thing, which doesn’t seem logical to most. This is necessary work unless you want to face many more of these “riders of the apocalypse” in the future. And you, my simpleminded friends, are not helping by attacking the authors and venting out your fear and biggotry. You can’t just say: “…because they are criminals and let’s just execute them who cares about the reasons”. Practical people with IQ higher than 0 care. Homegrown terrorism is not something to ignore, it’s pretty damn serious. And it’s already the second batch of it here in Canada in the last 5 years. Luckily cops are doing their job very well and save your sorry asses. For now.
    It appears the causes are the same for these 2 terrorists and for those 2 in Boston. People felt completely excluded from the community, rejected and disconnected from it. In the end the only thing they felt connected to was their religion, which speaks in absolutes and about out-of-this world things. If you have nothing going on in your life you might as well decided to become a “hero”. If you’re not religious you will probably try to rob a bank or enlist into military and go to war. If you’re a religious fanatic, being a hero or a martyr might as well be blowing up a bunch of “kafirs” on a train. Because if you’re becoming a soldier in a holy war it does not matter where you start – you’re at war with the world and might as well start where you are. How to stop people from feeling like they’re rejects and outsiders? Hard to say. There are always lonely tormented souls in every society.
    Your biggotry definitely does not help. As an immigrant myself, I’ve heard enough of disrespectful remarks from people who thought they were better than me just because they were born here (like it’s their personal achievement), people who were talking down to me because I’m “just another fresh-of-the-boat blah blah blah…” and I’m here “eating their bread” and whatever. Yeah, I felt I was looked down on great many times, felt isolated and excluded too. I channeled my anger into pushing harder to establish myself better here. But that’s me. Some people have a lot less resilience, they give up and fall into destructive patterns. And that can be whatever you want: drinking, drugs, religious fanatism, or simple clinical depression.
    Simple truth is that this guy had a life that was utter crap. He was angry at the world. He found his religion was the only thing that accepted him no matter what, so he plugged into it hardcore. It brainwashed him and channelled his anger into some sort of “holy war”. So there you go.
    And no it’s not because he is an immigrant. Even Islam is sort of instrumental here. (The whole Israel talk is along the lines of fundamental Islamists + resonates with him due to family history. But still secondary.) Just a misguided lost person on the edge, angry at the whole world. Everything else is secondary in this story. I’m not trying to say let’s give him a hug! But it’s a hard “root cause” to fix, isn’t it?

  14. Deport this piece of garbage.
    And all who associate with him.
    Fire those who let him in.

  15. If there are that many Muslims in there country why then are they not fighting to fix it? Why do they come and cause so much trouble for every country they come to and demand every thing and if they don’t get it they Sue!!!!

  16. Poor guy, our hearts are bleeding for him. Gets kicked out of palestine and decides to come to Canada and attempts to kill canadians….sorry I kid.

    Who ever wrote this article is either dimwitted , the people who could have died on that train could be your father, mother or son or daughter or best friend. I couldn’t give a **** about his background, because he tried to kill innocent people.

    If I was the government, I would immediately stretch his neck with a noose in public along with all his terrorist buddies to serve as an example.

Sign in to comment.