Ahmed Abassi was a good student, described by his friends as kind, considerate and generous. The native of Tunisia was working on his dissertation at Laval University in Quebec. There, he met the woman he was to marry -- both a fellow graduate student and a fellow Tunisian.
Two years ago, the pair went to Tunisia to marry, both assuming they would return to Canada and finish their studies. Abruptly and inexplicably, however, Canada revoked Abassi’s visa. Reluctantly, his wife returned without him.
Abassi was desperate to get back to his wife and studies, so it seemed lucky when “Tamer,” a man he vaguely knew, offered to help him resolve the Canadian visa issue. Since he claimed this would be easier done from the U.S., Tamer offered to help Abassi get to New York. He even offered him a job -- on paper -- and a Manhattan apartment. Abassi landed at JFK last March and, as agreed, told immigration officials he had a job at Tamer’s real estate company. He later repeated that on his green card application.
It was a setup from the very beginning. Tamer was an undercover FBI agent. From the moment he arrived, Abassi was under heavy surveillance and Tamer began pressuring him to join an alleged jihadist plan to derail a Canadian passenger train. Tamer thought Abassi was a good prospect because the young man, then 25, had some extremely negative opinions about the U.S.