Two men charged over an al Qaeda plot in Canada to derail a passenger train have appeared in court. One of the suspects has labeled the allegations unfair, saying they were made on appearances.
Thirty-five-year-old Raed Jaser, and his suspected accomplice Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, were arrested on Monday in separate raids following what police said was a tip from a member of the Muslim community last year that led to an investigation. Neither man is a Canadian citizen, but police on Monday would not comment on their nationalities.
The two men appeared in separate court appearances on Tuesday in Toronto and Montreal, facing charges which include conspiring to carry out an attack and murder people in association with a terrorist group.
Canadian police have only said that the plot involved a passenger train route in the Toronto area, and that there had been no immediate threat to rail passengers or the public.
The FBI was also involved in the investigation. According to the news agency Reuters, US officials said the suspects were believed to have worked on a plan that involved blowing up a trestle on the Canadian side of the border as a daily Toronto-New York connection passed over it.
Canadian police also said the suspects were “receiving support from al Qaeda elements located in Iran” and say the attack was the first know al Qaeda plot in Canada. The claim has been rejected as “truly ridiculous” by Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
In his brief court appearance in Montreal, Esseghaier, who declined to be represented by a court-appointed lawyer, said the allegations were unfair.
“The conclusions were made based on facts and words which are only appearances,” he told the court, speaking in French. The matter was transferred to a Toronto court.
Jaser appeared in court in Toronto and did not enter a plea. He was given a new court date of May 23.
jr/kms (AP, Reuters)