Canada train terror suspects in court

2013-05-23 22:37
Commuters leave a VIA Rail train at Union Station, the heart of VIA Rail travel, in Toronto, Canada. (Ian Willms, AFP)

Commuters leave a VIA Rail train at Union Station, the heart of VIA Rail travel, in Toronto, Canada. (Ian Willms, AFP)

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Toronto - Suspects in an alleged plot to derail a Canadian passenger train made brief court appearances on Thursday, with one asking for unusual legal aid while the other's lawyer pleaded his innocence.

Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, both appeared via video link to face charges in what police said was a plot with "direction and guidance" from al-Qaeda to attack a Via Rail train in the Toronto area.

Esseghaier had previously lashed out at Canada's criminal justice system, rejecting the validity of the proceedings against him.

In a reversal, he agreed on Thursday to have a lawyer represent him, with one caveat: the individual must rely on the Qur'an, or Muslim holy book, "as a reference" in preparing his defence.

"I don't want a book written by humans," he said.

Brydie Bethell, a defense lawyer for Jaser, meanwhile, told reporters outside the Toronto courthouse that her client planned to plead not guilty, and will seek bail.

"At this time, he denies all the allegations against him," she said.

Canadian authorities have been tight-lipped about their ongoing investigation of the alleged plot, while a publication ban prevents reporting of any evidence presented in court.

But local media have said the two men were planning to blow up a passenger train as it crossed a bridge near Niagara Falls on the Canada-US border.

Both men are expected back in court next month.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  canada  |  security

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