Suspect in train terror plot in country for 20 years: lawyer

Relatives of Toronto suspect Raed Jaser leave Old City Hall on Tuesday,April 23, 2013. Jaser is a Toronto-area man accused of plotting a terror attack on a VIA rain trian.

Credits: Jenny Yuen/ Toronto Sun/QMI Agency


MONTREAL - Alleged Via railway bomb plotter Chiheb Esseghaier, bespectacled and heavily bearded, was flanked by two jail guards Tuesday during a court appearance in which he suggested he was framed.

The 30-year-old Tunisian national opted to represent himself during the brief appearance in a highly-secured wing of the Montreal courthouse.

"The conclusions were made based on facts and words that are only illusions," the Ph.D student told Quebec court judge Pierre Labelle as dozens of journalists looked on.

Esseghaier, believed to be the ringleader of a plot to blow up a passenger train between New York City and Toronto, was charged with six counts - three more than his co-accused, Raed Jaser of Markham, Ont.

Esseghaier is the only one charged with knowingly instructing someone to carry out terrorist activity, allegedly between April 1 and Sept. 25 of last year.

At the Toronto courthouse, Jaser, 35, was remanded back to custody until May 23. He's charged with conspiracy to interfere with transportation, conspiracy to commit murder and participating in a terrorist organization.

MORE: Local Muslims aided train terror probe

Unlike Jaser's appearance earlier Tuesday morning, Esseghaier did not appear to have family or friends in the Montreal courtroom.

The indictment says the 30-year-old Montrealer has "no fixed address." He was arraigned in Montreal because he was arrested in the city on Monday afternoon across the street from Central Station, a main hub for Via Rail trains.

Crown prosecutor Richard Roy told the court that an RCMP officer recognized Esseghaier, called him out by name and arrested him after the suspect responded.

He's expected to be flown back to Toronto to face court again Wednesday.

MORE: Montreal terror suspect's web page features al-Qaida flag

In Toronto, Jaser, also bearded and wearing a grey traditional Islamic dress, stood with his arms folded in the prisoner's box.

He spoke his name and confirmed he was fluent in English to the Justice of the Peace.

As a number of family members left the court, they remained silent.

A man who identified himself as Jaser's father said, "I'm here to support my son."

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