December 13, 2013 Sections
The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
MONTREAL - A man who was born in Iran, but switched his birth name for an Italian one, has been charged in connection with an alleged attempt to bring explosive material onto a plane.
Antony Piazza, as he is now known, faces three charges over an incident that paralyzed Montreal's main airport for several hours and caused a neighbourhood to be shut down.
The story took another twist when his defence lawyer told reporters Monday that his client was transporting a bag belonging to someone else.
A bail hearing is scheduled Tuesday for Piazza, 71, whose original name was Houshang Nazemi.
It was under his original moniker that he received a 10-year sentence for drug trafficking in the mid-1980s in a case that was heard in the St-Jerome, Que., area, his defence attorney told reporters outside the courtroom on Monday.
Piazza's court appearance was brief.
He faces three charges — possession of an explosive substance; attempting to transport an explosive substance on an airplane; and mischief by endangering the safety of an airport or aircraft and disrupting activity at the airport.
Crown lawyer Alexandre Gauthier said the mischief charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.
The Crown also objects to his release on bail.
"The investigation is still ongoing and it's hard to tell what's going to come out of it right now," Gauthier said.
Police said the material found in luggage at a Montreal airport terminal contained everything needed to make a bomb — except the actual explosives.
The suspicious package was spotted at a security checkpoint in the U.S. departures area of Trudeau airport early Sunday morning.
But defence lawyer Louis Morena says he was holding the carry-on bag for someone else.
"In the police report, he claims his innocence and says the bag belonged to someone else," Morena told reporters outside the courtroom.
The Crown has remained mum about what exactly Piazza was carrying. His lawyer revealed some of the items police said they'd identified.
"They were talking about bullets, talking about powder, about wires, about (lighters)," Morena said.
Authorities have revealed less details to the media. The Crown said it will eventually say more about the luggage contents.
"It's not an explosive substance in itself, but it's an explosive substance in the sense of the Criminal Code," Gauthier said.
"It's hard to (be specific) right now about what type of substance it was, but one thing is certain: we'll be able to see what type of substance it was in future (court appearances)."
Police have also provided few details. They said only that the materials found Sunday were not dangerous without actual explosives, but stepped in because they didn't want to take any chances.
"For us, it is something major because everything was there to make us believe ... (it could have been) a bomb, an explosive device," police spokesman Ian Lafreniere told The Canadian Press.
"The explosive was not found, but even then everything was there to make us believe ... this."
Who supposedly gave him the bag?
That also remains a mystery.
"He doesn't say," Morena said of his client. "He simply says it belonged to someone else."
Piazza had a ticket to fly out of Montreal before he was detained Sunday.
As a result of the incident, there were long delays for flights on Sunday.
Hours later, police closed off a neighbourhood to search an apartment in the residential area of LaSalle and seized some documents.
Even though he changed his named to Piazza, Nazemi did an interview with La Presse newspaper in 2006 where he identified himself by his birth name.
The interview had to do with a video store he once owned, International Sun Video, which specialized in Iranian films. The newspaper ran a photo from that interview Monday.