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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Canada man 'planned to behead PM'
Supporter of one of the accused arriving at court
Supporters of the accused men were present at the court hearing
One of 17 terror suspects arrested in Canada last week is accused of planning to behead the prime minister, a defence lawyer has said, citing court papers.

Fifteen of the 17 men have been charged in court with planning terror attacks.

The charges were not publicly released but a defence lawyer said they ranged from plots to blow up parliament buildings to attacks on media outlets.

The lawyer said his client was innocent. Two suspects who were already in jail did not appear in court.

The two men had been imprisoned earlier on arms charges.

A lawyer for Stephen Chand, one of the accused men, said the charges were the result of scare-mongering by officials.

I think it was a wake-up call with respect to intelligence warnings that we've had for some time now
Irwin Cotler
Former Justice Minister

"It appears to me that whether you're in Ottawa or Toronto or Crawford, Texas or Washington DC, what is wanting to be instilled in the public is fear," Gary Batasar said.

"There's an allegation, apparently, that my client personally indicated that he wanted to behead the prime minister of Canada," he added.

"It's a very serious allegation. My client has said nothing about that."

Former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said the arrests were "a wake-up call, with respect to intelligence warnings we've had for some time now".

Hostages

Members of the group of 17 men had been accused of planning attacks on the Canadian parliament building in Ottawa and a landmark in Toronto, according to Mr Batasar, who said he had seen a synopsis of the charges.

Equipment seized by police during the raid
Police said the suspects planned "al-Qaeda-inspired" attacks

He said members of the group had also been accused of planning an attack on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and on the power network.

Mr Batasar said the court had accused Mr Chand of planning to take politicians hostage and behead Prime Minister Stephen Harper if demands for the release of Muslim prisoners and the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan were not met.

Lawyers for the other men did not comment on the charges and an eight-page document summarising the charges was not read in court or distributed to the media.

Five of the 15 accused are teenagers and charges against them cannot be made public, under Canadian law.

Long investigation

Security was tight for the hearing at a Toronto court, with police snipers stationed on rooftops.

Supporters of the suspects, many wearing Islamic dress, were also present.

All the defendants were remanded in custody. Lawyers, human rights advocates and family members have complained the suspects' legal rights are not being respected.

According to authorities, many of the accused had undergone weapons and explosives training in a remote area north of Toronto.

The Toronto Star said Mr Chand had been a reservist in the Canadian armed forces.

About 400 police officers and intelligence agents arrested the suspects last Friday and Saturday, seizing large amounts of what they described as bomb-making material.

Officers are investigating possible ties between the Canadian suspects and Islamic militants in Europe and Asia, and the US. Police say more arrests are possible.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other security agencies have been conducting a lengthy investigation, the largest of its kind in Canada.




SEE ALSO:
Terror suspects seized in Toronto
03 Jun 06 |  Americas
Country profile: Canada
06 May 06 |  Country profiles


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