A preliminary hearing has begun for a former terrorist with the Front de Libration du Qubec accused of trying to firebomb three Second Cup cafs.

Rhal Mathieu, 53, faces eight charges, including intent to cause harm using an explosive and possession of prohibited weapons.

The judge granted a request by Mathieu's lawyer for a ban on the publication of details.

The firebombs were planted in October after a group calling itself the French Self-Defence Brigade warned it would target businesses with English names.

No one was injured in the bombings.