MONTREAL - A young man and woman arrested in Quebec last week as a preventive measure were each arraigned on four terrorism-related charges Monday as teary-eyed relatives looked on.
El Mahdi Jamali and Sabrine Djermane, both 18, pleaded not guilty to attempting to leave Canada to commit an terrorist act abroad; possession of an explosive substance; facilitating a terrorist act; and committing an act under the direction or for the profit of a terrorist organization.
They whispered to each other as they sat side-by-side in the prisoner's box. As they were ushered back to detention, grim-faced relatives, some who'd been fighting back tears, waved and blew kisses.
The Crown described their arrests last Tuesday by the RCMP as a "preventive measure" because authorities feared they would commit a terrorism-related offence.
Prosecutor Lyne Decarie said the attorney general authorized criminal charges Monday, but she remained tight-lipped about the facts behind the indictment.
An RCMP statement said the short investigation was triggered by a tip from the community.
The charge sheet indicates the explosive substance was found in Montreal.
The sheet also suggests the couple allegedly attempted to leave the country between January 2015 and April 14, the day of their arrest. The facilitation charge is related to an event or events that allegedly occurred between Feb. 4 and last week.
The final charge alleges the pair were under the direction of a terrorist group while having possession of an explosive substance with the "intent, either to put lives in danger or cause serious property damage", or to allow a third party to do the same.
Decarie would not reveal how close the two were to actually carrying out an act. She was seeking last week to have the teens sign peace bonds that would set out conditions and restrictions. She said that request hasn't been abandoned, but the criminal case will take precedence.
Decarie said she'll oppose bail for both if the defence requests it. In terrorism cases, the burden falls on the defence to show the pair should be released.
Lawyer Marc Giroux, who represents Jamali, said his client knows the nature of the accusations but not the nature of the evidence in the case.
Giroux said it remains to be seen if the accusations are well founded.
"He's anxious to know what will happen regarding his detention," Giroux said of his young client.
Authorities haven't specified where they were going.
"I get the impression it wasn’t Florida or Cuba, but rather somewhere in the Middle East,” Giroux said outside the courtroom.
Both accused had many relatives in attendance. All left without commenting and calls to their homes were not immediately returned.
"They're kind of appalled, surprised, disappointed," Giroux said of the family members. "It's not because you're a Muslim that you're a terrorist. Those folks seem like very good folks, they're kind of surprised of the nature of the accusations."
The case resumes Friday.
The veteran defence lawyer said the two attended College de Maisonneuve, a Montreal junior college that has been beset by fears of radicalization of its students in recent months.
Several young Quebecers are believed to have fled to Turkey and may have joined jihadist groups in the Middle East. Some are thought to have attended the school.
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