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Train plot suspect rails against Canada courts


A Tunisian man accused of planning to derail a passenger train in the Toronto area with help from Al-Qaeda dismissed the Canadian justice system in a rambling courtroom rant on Wednesday.

Engineering doctoral student Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, was arrested on Monday along with Raed Jaser, 35, for what police said was a plot with "direction and guidance" from Al-Qaeda to attack a Via Rail train in the Toronto area.

Making his second court appearance in as many days, Esseghaier acknowledged the charges against him, including planning to carry out an attack and conspiring with a terrorist group to murder persons, but did not enter a plea.

He then lashed out at Canada's criminal justice system, despite the judge's warnings that his statements could be used against him at trial, and appeared to reject the validity of the proceedings against him.

"Only the Creator is perfect," said Esseghaier, who refused a court-appointed lawyer in favor of representing himself.

"We know that the Criminal Code is not (the) Holy Book," he said. "So if we are basing our judgment (on Canadian laws), we cannot rely on the conclusions taken out from these judgments."

Esseghaier, who was studying at Quebec's INRS University at the time of his arrest, has been described by federal police as "the main suspect" in the case.

Sporting a dark blue jogging suit and eyeglasses, the bearded man mostly listened calmly during the hearing, occasionally resting his chin on the edge of the prisoner's box.

At the end, the judge remanded him into custody and ordered him to appear in court again on May 23 along with Jaser for a bail hearing.

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

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.

The Wall Street Journal, citing US sources, however, said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had wanted to arrest the two suspects two weeks earlier but were dissuaded by US officials who wanted more time to probe possible American links to the plot.

The twin bombings at the Boston Marathon -- which killed three people and left more than 260 wounded -- is what convinced Canadian officials not to delay any longer, said the WSJ.

Canadian police have said an attack was not imminent. According to the WSJ, the suspects had not yet procured bomb materials.