TORONTO (AP) — Two men faced bail hearings Tuesday after their arrest on charges of plotting a terrorist attack against a Canadian passenger train with support from al-Qaida elements in Iran, authorities said. The case has raised questions about Shiite-led Iran's murky relationship with the predominantly Sunni Arab terrorist network.
Raed Jaser, 35, made a brief appearance in a Toronto court room and was told to appear in court again next month. He sported a long beard, wore a black shirt with no tie and was accompanied by his parents and brother. Jaser was given a new court date for May 23 and did not enter a plea, and the court granted a request by his lawyer, John Norris, for a publication ban on future evidence and testimony.
Jaser's suspected accomplice, Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, was scheduled to appear in court in Montreal later Tuesday.
Jaser and Esseghaier had "direction and guidance" from al-Qaida members in Iran, though there was no reason to think the planned attacks were state-sponsored, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner James Malizia said Monday. Police said the men did not get financial support from al-Qaida, but declined to provide more details.
"This is the first known al-Qaida planned attack that we've experienced in Canada," Superintendent Doug Best told a news conference. Officials in Washington and Toronto said it had no connections to last week's bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters on Tuesday there is no evidence of any Iranian involvement and groups such as al-Qaida have "no compatibility with Iran in both political and ideological fields."
"We oppose any terrorist and violent action that would jeopardize lives of innocent people," he said.