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Suspects in Canada terror plot deny charges

April 24, 2013 19:51 IST

Two men accused of hatching a terror plot, backed by Al Qaeda elements in Iran to target a passenger train on the New York-to-Toronto route, have denied allegations against them in Canadian courts.

Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto and Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal who face charges of conspiring "with each other to murder unknown persons for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group," denied the allegations made against them yesterday.

They were arrested on Monday in separate raids following what police said was a joint Canada-US investigation that started in August last year after a tip from a member of the Muslim community.

Officers detained Jaser at his home, a semi-detached house in a north Toronto neighbourhood, and arrested Esseghaier from a McDonald's restaurant in Montreal's main train station.

Esseghaier at his Montreal court appearance insisted the charges against him are unfounded.

"The conclusions were made based on facts and words that were only appearances," he told Quebec court judge Pierre Labelle in a five-minute hearing.

When the hearing concluded, the Tunisian-born doctoral student was ushered away and flown to Toronto to await his formal arrest and court appearance later today.

An hour earlier, Raed Jaser appeared before a crowd of journalists and relatives at the OldCity Hall courtroom in Toronto.

He looked briefly at his parents and brother sitting in the second row, before talking with his lawyer John Norris.

Addressing the media following the court hearing, Norris said Jaser intends to "defend himself vigorously against these charges".

"He's in a state of shock and disbelief. He's anxious to see the evidence that the Crown says it has against him," Norris was quoted by the Star as saying.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said the two accused were getting “direction and guidance" from al-Qaeda elements in Iran.

Though Iran has released a statement denying any connection with the plot.

The National Post reported that Esseghaier was born in Tunisia and identified Jaser as a Palestinian with United Arab Emirates citizenship.

The two men in Canada may not be the only suspects connected with the case. CTV News reported last evening that at least two others in the New York area have been under FBI surveillance.

Police confirmed the plot on Tuesday.

"One of the plans talked about was to detonate a bomb on the trestle linking New York and Ontario at Niagara Falls," a highly-placed police source was quoted by the Ottawa Sun as saying.

"The plan was to take out the bridge and the people on a passenger train and kill as many people as possible," the source said.

Image: Raed Jaser (L) and lawyer John Norris are pictured in a courtroom sketch at Old City Hall Court in Toronto.

Photograph: Pam Davies/Reuters

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