TORONTO – One of the men charged in an alleged al-Qaeda directed plot to attack a Via Rail train coming into Canada from New York is to appear in a Toronto court this morning.
It will be the second court appearance for Montreal resident Chiheb Esseghaier, who is facing several terrorism charges along with Toronto resident Raed Jaser.
Both men disputed the allegations against them yesterday before being remanded in custody.
Esseghaeir, 30, went before a Montreal judge and calmly asked to address the court.
“The conclusions were made based on facts and words which are only appearances,” he said.
The judge explained that it wasn’t the right venue for his remarks. Esseghaier refused the help of a court-appointed attorney yesterday.
The PhD student is facing five charges, including instructing someone to carry out an activity for the benefit of a terrorist group.
Meanwhile, Jaser’s lawyer has said his client — a permanent resident who’s been in Canada for 20 years — is shocked at the allegations and plans to vigorously defend himself.
Jaser appeared in a Toronto court yesterday where he was remanded in custody until May 23, when he is to appear via video from a detention centre.
In the meantime, his lawyer will be making an application for bail in Ontario Superior Court.
Jaser and Esseghaier were arrested and charged Monday in an alleged plot that RCMP said involved “direction and guidance” from al-Qaida members in Iran.
Police added that there was no reason to believe the planned attacks were state-sponsored by Iran.
The suspects had the capacity to carry out an attack, but there was no “imminent threat” to the public, the RCMP said.
Two U.S. law enforcement officials have told The Associated Press that the target of the alleged plot was a train that runs between New York City and Canada and that the attack was to take place in Canada.
Via Rail and Amtrak jointly operate routes between the U.S. and Canada, including the Maple Leaf trains running from New York City to Toronto.
Both companies have said they are co-operating with law enforcement authorities and are committed to ensuring the safety of their passengers and employees.