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Montrealer charged with terror offence was planning 'something big,' says Crown

Brian Daly. (Philippe-Olivier Contant/QMI Agency)

By Brian Daly, Postmedia Network

Nejib Belhaj-Chtioui is pictured in this undated Facebook profile photo.

Nejib Belhaj-Chtioui is pictured in this undated Facebook profile photo.

MONTREAL - A 36-year-old Montrealer was arraigned Monday on a terrorism charge for allegedly planning "something big," says the Crown.

The Crown opposed bail for Nejib Belhaj-Chtioui, a Tunisian-born Canadian and father of two.

A source familiar with the investigation told QMI Agency that police were tipped off to bomb-making blueprints that were posted to the Internet in 2011.

Police had obtained a warrant in August 2013 and notified Belhaj-Chtioui" that he would be arrested upon his return, says the source.

Police handcuffed him and took him off of a plane when it arrived from his native Tunisia at Montreal's Trudeau Airport on Sunday.

Crown attorney Lucie Martineau said the case involves "behaviour that would lead one to suspect terrorist activity."

"There are two charges regarding a reasonable apprehension that a terrorist activity could have occurred," she said. "The police officer had reasonable apprehensions that some things could occur and something big."

It wasn't immediately clear if the alleged target was in Canada or elsewhere.

When asked why she opposed bail, Martineau said, "because he was just at the airport. He wasn't in Canada for the past month."

Belhaj-Chtioui wore a winter coat and was expressionless Monday during the two-minute arraignment. His bail hearing is scheduled for Tuesday morning at the Montreal courthouse.

Provincial police Sgt. Audrey-Anne Bilodeau said the accused was known to travel frequently between Canada and Tunisia.

"I think he was living here and there," she said. "A few weeks or a few months in Montreal and a few weeks or a few months in Tunisia. I don't have any details if he was working for a group."

Bilodeau said she also didn't know if Belhaj-Chtioui was on any Canadian terrorist watch lists.

QMI Agency's television partner TVA spoke to an ex-girlfriend Monday who said Belhaj-Chtioui attended mosques but "isn't a radical."

"(Nejib) wasn't mean," said the woman, who didn't give her name.

"This man is a very good person. He wouldn't harm a fly. His arrest is a surprise."

Belhaj-Chtioui's ex-wife attended the arraignment and told reporters they have two children.

His Facebook profile says he was born in the Tunisian capital of Tunis, is a former Bell Canada employee and studied at the University of Quebec at Montreal.

Belhaj-Chtioui is the second Montrealer arrested on terrorism-related offences since last week.

A 15-year-old boy faces charges after authorities say he had planned to travel abroad to join jihadist fighters.

The teen allegedly robbed a convenience store "for the benefit, or at the direction, of a terrorist group.

brian.daly@sunmedia.ca


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