TORONTO -- One of two men accused of plotting with al-Qaida members in Iran to derail a train in Canada became radicalized to the point that his father reached out to a Muslim support group for help and advice, a local religious leader said yesterday.
Muhammad Robert Heft, president of the Paradise Forever Support Group Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides support to Muslims in Canada, said Mohammad Jaser came to him several times, citing concerns about the radicalization of his son.
"He came to me about his son saying how concerned he was getting about the rigidness of his son and his interpretation of Islam. He was becoming self-righteous, becoming pushy, pushing his views on how much they [his family] should be practicing as a Muslim," Heft said.
Jaser's son, Raed, 35, has been charged along with Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, with conspiring to carry out an attack in association with a terrorist group in their plot to derail a train that runs between New York City and Montreal.
Canadian investigators say the men received guidance from members of al-Qaida in Iran. Iranian government officials have said the government had nothing to do with the plot.
"His son was becoming overzealous and intolerant in his understanding of the religion," Heft said. "Those are the telltale signs that can lead into the radicalization process." The discussions took place between 2010 and 2011, while the father was renting a basement apartment in Heft's home in Markham, Ontario.
Yesterday, the other suspect appeared briefly in court, where he made a statement suggesting he did not recognize the court's jurisdiction.
"This criminal code is not a holy book," Esseghaier said. "We cannot rely on the conclusions taken out from these judgments." He rejected the allegations against him and declined a court-appointed lawyer.
Jaser had appeared in court Tuesday and did not enter a plea. The court granted a request by his lawyer, John Norris, for a publication ban on future evidence and testimony.
Both men were ordered to return to court on May 23.
Police, tipped off by an imam worried about the behavior of one of the suspects, said it was the first known attack planned by al-Qaida in Canada. The two could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.