MONTREAL - There were some moments of friction Tuesday outside a tiny Montreal mosque where a man charged with terrorism used to occasionally pray.

Chiheb Esseghaier is facing several terrorism charges in an alleged plot the RCMP say was directed by al-Qaida.

With little known about Esseghaier, more than a half-dozen journalists headed to the west-end mosque Tuesday seeking more information about him.

Reporters questioned worshippers as they came and went from the afternoon prayer, a media presence that created concerns for several attendees.

"Please turn off the cameras, please don't make any trouble for me," said an exasperated man, who declined to give his name but described himself as a founder of the two-year-old Cote-des-Neiges Socio-Cultural Centre.

"(My worshippers) will not come... they'll be afraid of this situation."

Two people Tuesday confirmed having seen the accused terrorist pray at the glass-panelled storefront-type establishment, which is near the intersection of prominent streets in a working-class multicultural neighbourhood.

One said it had been a year since he'd seen Esseghaier, a biotechnology expert who was performing doctoral studies in nanosensors.

The media presence drew an angry response from another man, who said he owned the building.

During a lengthy exchange with reporters, the man demanded that media refrain from taking images of him or recording anything he told them because he did not want to be interviewed.

He also refused to give his name.

"Don't take notes and don't record. I have called my lawyer," said the man before he headed into the building.

"This man is still innocent, there are charges against him and please don't make a big drama out of it and implicate a lot of mosques.

"You are making a very big drama out of this thing that has not been proved yet."

A short time later, municipal police officers arrived at the prayer room, which is in one of Montreal's most culturally diverse neighbourhoods.

The officers entered during prayer and left after a few minutes without saying anything to the reporters and TV camera crews gathered outside.

Several prayer attendees said they were concerned with how their place of worship and the Muslim community was being portrayed by the media since Esseghaier's arrest Monday.

"It's peaceful," Anour Lahrach said of the centre, following the prayer.

"There's no terrorism in there... but unfortunately the media has truly deformed the image of our religion."

Another man described the prayer room as a place for Muslims who work on the road, like taxi drivers, to drop in during the day. He said it has no official membership and caters to people who are moderate and well integrated in Canada.

"It's a quiet mosque... there are no problems," said the man, who added that he is deeply affected by Islam's frequently negative portrayal by news outlets.

"The media sometimes exaggerates... Islam is a religion of peace."

Two men recalled seeing Esseghaier at the mosque in the past, but both insisted they knew very little about him.

"It's been a long time since I've seen him — about a year or longer," said one man, who left without giving his name, after the prayer.

"He's not really a big talker, he's quiet.

"I never had a problem with him."

The man, who, like Esseghaier, has a Tunisian background, said he knew the suspect was in the Montreal for his doctoral research.

He said he knew nothing about Esseghaier's personal views.

"I knew him as an average Muslim, but I don't know what happened afterwards," the man said of Esseghaier, who is not a Canadian citizen.

Another man, who remembered seeing Esseghaier at the prayer room a couple of times, said the 30-year-old was not a regular at the centre.

He only realized who Esseghaier was after he was shown a photo.

"It's been a long time since I've seen this man," he said, "but I have seen this man before."

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  • Chiheb Esseghaier

    Chiheb Esseghaier, one of two suspects accused of plotting with al-Qaeda in Iran to derail a train in Canada, arrives at Buttonville Airport just north of Toronto, on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Canadian investigators say Raed Jaser, 35, and his suspected accomplice Esseghaier, 30, received "directions and guidance" from members of al-Qaeda in Iran. In a brief court appearance in Montreal Tuesday, Esseghaier declined to be represented by a court-appointed lawyer. He made a brief statement in French in which he called the allegations against him unfair.

  • John Norris, the attorney for accused Raed Jaser scrums with the media at Toronto's Old City Hall court house.

  • Chiheb Esseghaier

    In this courtroom sketch, Chiheb Esseghaier appears in court in Montreal on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, were arrested and charged Monday in what the RCMP said was the first known al-Qaeda terror plot in Canada.

  • Family members of Raed Jaser leave court in Toronto on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Jaser, a man accused with another man of plotting to derail a train in Canada with support from al-Qaida elements in Iran made a brief court appearance and was told to appear in court again next month.

  • Chiheb Esseghaier

    Chiheb Esseghaier, one of two suspects accused of plotting with al-Qaida in Iran to derail a train in Canada, arrives at Buttonville Airport just north of Toronto, on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Canadian investigators say Raed Jaser, 35, and his suspected accomplice Esseghaier, 30, received "directions and guidance" from members of al-Qaida in Iran. In a brief court appearance in Montreal Tuesday, Esseghaier declined to be represented by a court-appointed lawyer. He made a brief statement in French in which he called the allegations against him unfair.

  • Chiheb Esseghaier

    Chiheb Esseghaier, one of two men accused of plotting a terror attack on rail target, is led off a plane by an Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer at Buttonville Airport just north of Toronto on Tuesday April 23, 2013. Canadian investigators say Raed Jaser, 35, and his suspected accomplice Esseghaier, 30, received "directions and guidance" from members of al-Qaeda in Iran. In a brief court appearance in Montreal Tuesday, Esseghaier declined to be represented by a court-appointed lawyer. He made a brief statement in French in which he called the allegations against him unfair.

  • Chiheb Esseghaier is taken off an airplane at Buttonville Airport in Markham, Ont. on Monday April 22, 2013.

  • John Norris, the lawyer for Raed Jaser, one of the two men accused of plotting a terror attack on a Canadian rail target, leaves court in Toronto on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Jaser, 35, was charged in Toronto Tuesday in an alleged al-Qaeda supported terror plot to attack a Via passenger train. His suspected accomplice Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, was charged in Montreal.

  • Mohammed Jaser, father of Raed Jaser, leaves court in Toronto on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Raed Jaser is accused with another man of plotting to derail a train in Canada with support from al-Qaeda elements in Iran. Raed Jaser had a brief court appearance and was told to appear in court again next month.

  • Security officials check a man at a courthouse in Montreal on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Reed Jaser, one of two men accused of plotting a terrorist attack against a Canadian passenger train with support from al-Qaida elements in Iran, made a brief court appearance Tuesday but did not enter a plea. Canadian investigators say Jaser, 35, and his suspected accomplice Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, received “directions and guidance” from members of al-Qaida. The case prompted an immediate response from Iran, which denied any involvement and said groups such as al-Qaida do not share Iran’s ideology.

  • Security officials check a man at a courthouse in Montreal on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Reed Jaser, one of two men accused of plotting a terrorist attack against a Canadian passenger train with support from al-Qaeda elements in Iran, made a brief court appearance Tuesday but did not enter a plea. Canadian investigators say Jaser, 35, and his suspected accomplice Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, received “directions and guidance” from members of al-Qaeda . The case prompted an immediate response from Iran, which denied any involvement and said groups such as al-Qaeda do not share Iran’'s ideology.

  • An RCMP officer shakes hands to what appears to be pilots after a transfer of a terror suspect at Buttonville Airport, April 22, 2013.

  • A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer pats a colleague on the back before a press conference in Toronto as the RCMP announce the arrest of two men accused of plotting a terror attack on rail target on Monday April 22, 2013.

  • RCMP officers stand outside the Toronto home of one of the two men accused of plotting a terror attack on a rail target, on Monday April 22, 2013.

  • Officers from various law enforcement agencies including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Peel Regional Police, and Surete du Quebec gather at a press conference in Toronto, Monday, April 22, 2013 as the RCMP announce the arrest of two men accused of plotting a terror attack on rail target on Monday April 22, 2013.

  • Officers from various law enforcement agencies including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Peel Regional Police, and Surete du Quebec gather at a news conference in Toronto on Monday, April 22, 2013, as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announce the arrest of two men accused of plotting a terror attack on a rail target.

  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Laporte walks with Mohammad Shaied Sheikh of the Masjid el Noor Mosque before attending a news conference in Toronto, Monday, April 22, 2013, as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announce the arrest of two men accused of plotting a terror attack on rail target.

  • Representatives of Toronto's Islamic community attend a news conference in Toronto as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announce the arrest of two men accused of plotting a terror attack on rail target, in Toronto, Monday April 22, 2013.

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