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Canada fast-tracks rail terror prosecution

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A commuter walks through Union Station, the heart of VIA Rail travel, on April 22, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.Getty Images/AFP/File

Canadian prosecutors on Monday moved to skip a preliminary hearing for two accused in an alleged plot to derail a passenger train, and proceed directly to trial.

Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, and Raed Jaser, 35, face terrorism charges in what police say was a plot with "direction and guidance" from Al-Qaeda to attack a Via Rail train in the Toronto area.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada announced a direct indictment against the pair, bypassing the usual preliminary hearing in which a judge determines if there is sufficient evidence for a trial, and going directly to trial.

No reason was given for the move.

Prosecutors also dropped one of five charges against Esseghaier, for instructing another person to carry out a terrorist activity. Jasser still faces three terrorism-related charges.

Canadian authorities have been tight-lipped about their ongoing investigation of the alleged plot, while a publication ban prevents reporting of any evidence presented in court.

But local media have said the two men were planning to blow up a passenger train as it crossed a bridge near Niagara Falls on the Canada-US border.

Esseghaier and Jasser are expected to appear in court again in October to set a trial date.