Iranian-born suspect charged with endangering L.A.-bound plane

A courtroom artist's sketch shows 71-year-old Antony Piazza, an Iranian emigre who changed his name after a drug-trafficking charge and prison sentence, during a court appearance in Montreal on Monday. He has been charged with attempting to bring bomb components on board a Los Angeles-bound plane Sunday and endangering an aircraft and air travelers.
(Mike McLaughlin / Associated Press)

An Iranian-born Montreal man faces three criminal charges in an alleged attempt to board a Los Angeles-bound plane with bomb-making components in his carry-on luggage, Canadian media reported Monday.

Antony Piazza, 71, appeared in court a day after his arrest at Pierre Trudeau International Airport to be charged with 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, the Toronto Star reported.

Conviction on the charges would carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, news reports said, quoting Crown Prosecutor Alexandre Gauthier.

Piazza was born in Iran and was named Houshang Nazemi until he legally changed it after a mid-1980s drug-trafficking conviction and 10-year prison sentence, the Star said.


Canada’s CTV News and the National Post quoted an attorney for Piazza, Louis Morena, as saying after the Montreal court appearance that his client was given the bag by someone at the airport.

Piazza was to return to court for a bail hearing Tuesday, following objections by Gauthier to his possible release.

“The investigation is still ongoing and it’s hard to tell what’s going to come out of it right now,” Gauthier said.

Piazza was arrested at the airport after routine security screening turned up suspicious objects in his luggage that Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafreniere said were all the components for a bomb except for the explosive compound. All passengers waiting to board the flight on which Piazza was booked were searched again and questioned, to determine whether he might have had an accomplice carrying the explosive material, Lafreniere said.

The incident paralyzed the Montreal airport for much of Sunday and also prompted evacuation and search of the suspect’s home in the LaSalle suburb of west Montreal.

Police reported taking some documents from the home search but finding “nothing obvious,” the Star reported.

The Montreal Gazette referred in its Monday coverage to a 2006 interview that Piazza, then still going by Nazemi, gave to La Presse about the video business he founded in Montreal three years after fleeing Iran in 1979 to escape the Islamic Revolution. He told the French-language newspaper that his videos catered to fellow exiles nostalgic for the days when the country was ruled by the shah.

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Twitter: @cjwilliamslat