The mother of one of the two suspects accused of trying to carry out an al-Qaeda-supported plot to derail a Via Rail passenger train for almost a year doesn't believe the charges against her son, saying he is a "very good boy" and a genius who loves to study.

"It surprised me. I didn't believe it. I am certain my son cannot commit such an act," Raoudha Esseghaier, mother of Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, told Radio-Canada from her home in Tunisia "I know it because I've raised him and I know him by heart."

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Raoudha said her son, who had been doing doctoral research at the Institute National de la Recherche Scientifique in Varennes, Que, runs experiments and does research.

"He is a very good boy. He loves his studies. Chiheb is a genius. Since his childhood, believe me, he's been passionate about his studies," she said. "When he was four, he knew how to read and count. Since his childhood, he is studying. Even when we would say, 'come play,' he would answer 'no, I don't want to. I prefer to study.'"

His father, Mohammed Rached Esseghaier, questioned the evidence against his son

"When someone wants to derail a train, he needs equipment, something, or, at least, a plan with [targets] spelled out. But they have not found anything."

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But the father did admit that in the last few years his son had changed and that the changes did not please him.

Earlier this week, Esseghaier, a Montreal resident who is from Tunisia, appeared in court, where he said that the Criminal Code should not apply to him because it's "not a holy book."

He, along with Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto, are facing terrorism related charges in an alleged plot to derail a Via Rail passenger train. Esseghaier has been remanded into custody until his next appearance on May 23.

Watched for almost a year

CBC News reported this week that the RCMP had been following Esseghaier since May 2012. At that time, two undercover surveillance officers watched him on an Air Canada flight to Cancun, where he was to attend a biomedical conference.

Esseghaier's behaviour on the plane was "bizarre," and he had an altercation with a female flight attendant after he went to the washroom, sources say.

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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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