04/26/2013 06:53 EDT | Updated 06/26/2013 05:12 EDT

Via Terror Plot Suspect A 'Very Good Boy,' Mom Says


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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