© THE CANADIAN PRESS
A transport van carrying Raed Jaser leaves court in Toronto on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Jaser, a man accused with another of plotting to derail a train in Canada with support from al-Qaida elements in Iran, made a brief court appearance and was told to appear in court again next month.
The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Two men charged in an alleged al-Qaida supported terror plot to attack a Via Rail passenger train are taking issue with the allegations against them.
Raed Jaser, 35, appeared in court Tuesday morning in Toronto and Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, made a brief court appearance in Montreal.
Esseghaier attempted to address the court, suggesting the case against him was not solid by saying the court was coming to conclusions based on appearances.
But judge Pierre Labelle told the accused, who refused the help of a court-appointed attorney, that it wasn’t the right venue to discuss it.
In Toronto, Jaser’s lawyer said outside court that his client “is in a state of shock and disbelief.”
“He denies the allegations and he will vigorously defend them,” John Norris said.
“Mr. Jaser is presumed innocent of these charges, just as any other person who would be facing such a charge is to be presumed innocent.”
Jaser is a permanent resident who has been in Canada for 20 years, Norris said.
Several family members attended Jaser’s brief court appearance. His father, Mohammed Jaser, beat a hasty retreat from the courthouse amid a crush of journalists and was reluctant to answer any questions.
“I don’t know nothing,” he said. “Let the police do their job.”
Jaser and Esseghaier were arrested and charged Monday in what the RCMP said was the first known al-Qaida terror plot in Canada.
They said the men had “direction and guidance” from al-Qaida members in Iran, but there was no reason to think the planned attacks were state-sponsored.
Tehran denied any links with an alleged plot and said the terrorist network had no presence in Iran.
The country’s foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters on Tuesday that groups such as al-Qaida have “no compatibility with Iran in both political and ideological fields.”
He called the Canadian claims part of Ottawa’s hostile policies against Tehran.
Canadian authorities have not given the nationalities of the two suspects.
They were remanded in custody at least until the next procedural steps in their cases.
Because of the charges Jaser is facing, his bail hearing has to happen at a different level of court than the one at which he appeared Tuesday. His next court appearance is set for May 23.
In the meantime, Norris said he will be preparing a bail application to be heard at a later date in Ontario Superior Court.
Esseghaier, who appeared in court wearing the same blue-and-black heavy jacket in which he was photographed Monday, was ordered detained pending the execution of an arrest warrant issued for him in Toronto.
He had been flown Monday to Toronto after his arrest, but was flown back to Montreal by the RCMP to appear in court Tuesday because of jurisdictional issues. Esseghaier will be held in Toronto, said Richard Roy, a federal Crown prosecutor.