Two men charged in Canada with plotting an attack on a passenger train have appeared in separate courts while Iran reacted angrily to police accusations that the plotters were backed by al-Qaeda elements in Iran.

Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto and Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal appeared in court on Tuesday after being arrested in separate raids and charged one day earlier.

Jaser arrived at the procedural hearing in Toronto's Old City Hall courthouse, but details of the hearing were covered by a publication ban.

Jaser, who denied any involvement, was detained and would return for a bail hearing at a later date, his lawyer, John Norris, told reporters.

"He denies the allegations and he will vigorously defend them," Norris said outside the court, describing Jaser as being in a state of "shock and disbelief".

'Only appearances'

Esseghaier, a Tunisian-born doctoral student at a Montreal-area university, appeared at a Montreal court, handcuffed and in shackles.

He told the judge that conclusions had been drawn from deeds and words "that are only appearances".

Esseghaier was remanded in custody until an arrest warrant is executed and endorsed in Quebec.

Canadian authorities have linked the two to al-Qaeda factions in Iran but they say there is no indication that the attack plans, which police described as the first known al-Qaeda-backed plot on Canadian soil, were state-sponsored.

US officials said the attack would have targeted a rail line between New York and Toronto, a route that travels along the Hudson Valley into New York wine country and enters Canada near Niagara Falls.

Iran reacted angrily to being tied to the arrests. Canada last year severed diplomatic ties over what it said was Iran's support for terrorist groups, as well as its nuclear programme and its hostility towards Israel.

"Al-Qaeda in Iran, it is a sheer lie, a scandalous lie that surprised me," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said according to the Fars News Agency. 

Source: Agencies