October 28, 2013

Suspicious package at Montreal airport; 1 held

Antony Piazza, an Iranian by birth, is accused of trying to bring bomb materials onto a plane.

The Associated Press

MONTREAL – A 71-year-old man who was booked on a flight to Los Angeles faces three charges after parts of a potential explosive device were found in his carry-on luggage at Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport.

Antony Piazza is shown in a Montreal police handout photo. Piazza, a 71-year-old Iranian-born man with a legally changed name, faces three criminal charges in connection with an alleged attempt to bring explosive material onto an airplane.

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Montreal Police

click image to enlarge

An artist’s sketch shows 71-year old Antony Piazza during a court appearance in Montreal, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. Piazza, a 71-year-old Iranian-born man with a legally changed name faces three criminal charges in connection with an alleged attempt to bring explosive material onto an airplane.

AP Photo/The Canadian Press

Antony Piazza, a Canadian of Iranian origin, was charged Monday with mischief, endangering the safety of an aircraft or airport and being in illegal possession of an explosive substance. The incident partly shut down Montreal’s main airport for several hours on Sunday and caused a neighborhood to be shut down for a police search.

Police found wires, bullets, and a powder inside the bag, his attorney, Louis Morena, said.

Piazza, who is originally from Tehran, changed his name in the 1980s from Houshang Nazemi, said Morena. He previously served a 10-year-sentence under that name in Canadian prison for smuggling drugs into the country.

Morena told reporters Piazza maintains his innocence in the airport case and that the carry-on bag didn’t belong to him. “He said somebody gave the baggage to him,” Morena said.

Prosecutor Alexandre Gauthier said Piazza could face up to 10 years in prison and that the investigation is ongoing. He didn’t rule out the possibility of additional charges.

“There may be more serious accusations, but it’s hard to tell what’s going to come out of the investigation right now,” Gauthier said.

Piazza, a stocky man with a clean-shaven face, wore a black suit and dress shirt in his brief appearance at the Montreal courthouse. He addressed the court in English.

Piazza is set to appear again Tuesday for a bail hearing.

Police said they searched the suspect’s apartment and car in a residential area near the airport Sunday evening after the package was spotted earlier in the day.

They seized some documents but Ian Lafreniere, a Montreal police spokesman, said they have found “nothing obvious” so far.

Members of the city’s SWAT team were called in and authorities set up a security perimeter spanning several city blocks during the search. About 20 residents were temporarily evacuated from their homes.

The package was spotted at a security checkpoint in the U.S. departures area early Sunday morning. Lafreniere describe the seized items as “different parts of a potential device.”

“To make that a little clearer, let’s say you are trying to do a bomb inside the luggage, but one thing was missing: no explosives, but it was different parts of a dangerous device,” Lafreniere said.

Piazza was detained, everyone on the flight was questioned, and luggage was searched as a precaution, Lafreniere said.

Flights destined for the United States were delayed for several hours on Sunday morning but an airport spokeswoman said flight operations had resumed by early in the afternoon.

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