Canadian law enforcement officers gather at a news conference in Toronto… (Chris Young / Associated…)
An imam in the Toronto area came forward more than a year ago with concerns about one of the two suspects now charged with an alleged terrorism plot, an attorney who handled the tip said Tuesday.
Toronto attorney Naseer Syed said the imam, who wants to remain anonymous, first came to him with his concerns about Raed Jaser, 35, who was arrested Monday by Canadian police.
“The community has always struggled with, at what point does some behavior or activity or words cross a certain threshold?” Syed said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“He noticed some of the activities and became concerned enough that he consulted with me and felt it should be reported to authorities. … He asked me to make the first call,” the attorney said.
Syed said he immediately contacted Canadian authorities with the tip. It is unclear what part the information played in the lengthy investigation that led up to the arrests of Jaser and Montreal-area resident Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, who were charged with conspiring to commit murder in connection with a terrorist group. Canadian police told reporters their investigation began last August.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokeswoman Sgt. Julie Gagnon told the Los Angeles Times she could not provide additional details on the investigation, including any role played by the tip that Syed passed along. Police met with Muslim community leaders before briefing reporters on the arrests Monday and reportedly credited the Muslim community for helping uncover the alleged plot.
“They told us if it was not for the involvement of the Muslim community, they would not have been able to make an arrest,” Ontario attorney Hussein Hamdani told Bloomberg.
Syed declined to specify how the imam knew the suspect and whether the imam was involved in the investigation after providing the tip, saying the imam had not told him to provide more details.
"The Muslim community has been involved in cooperating with the authorities for many, many years," he said. "The public should be assured that the vast majority of Muslims in their midst have the best intentions of the community at heart and would not want to see harm come to anyone."
Bail hearings were held for the two suspects on Tuesday. As Jaser appeared briefly in court in Toronto, attorney John Norris told reporters his client was shocked by the allegations. Esseghaier appeared in court in Montreal later the same day.
“The conclusions are drawn from facts and words that are not what they appear to be,” Esseghaier said briefly before a judge interrupted and said they were not yet discussing the facts of the case, according to the National Post.
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