Luka Magnotta pleads not guilty in Montreal

Luka Rocco Magnotta has pleaded not guilty to the multiple charges against him, including first-degree murder, in the death and dismemberment of Chinese student Jun Lin.

WARNING: This story contains graphic information that may be disturbing

Luka Rocco Magnotta has pleaded not guilty to the multiple charges against him, including first-degree murder, in the death and dismemberment of Chinese student Jun Lin.

Magnotta appeared via video link at the Montreal courthouse Monday afternoon before Justice Lori-Renée Weitzman, in a brief hearing that lasted about three minutes.

Standing impassive and under guard watch, Magnotta pleaded not guilty through his lawyer Pierre Panaccio.

Panaccio told his client that he hoped to speak with him later Tuesday, and said Magnotta could call him at home.

"I'd be pleased to talk about this," Panaccio said. "OK," Magnotta responded, before being led away to detention.

Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier said Magnotta's eventual trial would be based on the first-degree murder count, as "the other charges are accessory to this one."

Chinese national Jun Lin was a permanent Canadian resident and student at Concordia University when he was killed. (Facebook)

Bouthillier will try the case along with Crown prosecutor Hélène Di Salvo.

Both have worked several high-profile cases — Di Salvo successfully prosecuted Dave Hilton, the former world champion boxer, in 2001, for molesting his daughters.

When asked about a potential jury, Bouthillier said he's not concerned about finding impartial jurors.

"Juries have been handling tough matters in this country for hundreds of years and I fail to see why they couldn't handle [this]," he said.

Both Bouthillier and Di Salvo said they won't grant any media interviews during the trial, to minimize the circus-like frenzy that has marked Magnotta's case in the last month.

The case returns to court on Thursday, again by video, to discuss a possible motion requesting psychiatric evaluation.

Suspect extradited Monday on military plane

Magnotta, 29, was flown from Germany to Quebec's Mirabel airport aboard a Canadian Forces military plane on Monday evening, in a tightly controlled extradition operation orchestrated to minimize media attention on his return.

Police said a military aircraft was the best option for authorities for Magnotta, given that no commercial airline was interested in transporting him. 

It is common for extraditions to take place on regular airline flights, with prisoners accompanied by guards.

Montreal police Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière said that in Magnotta's case, the risk of him speaking to other passengers was also a complicating factor. 

Magnotta was whisked from Mirabel in a convoy of police vans to an operational centre in the north end of Montreal, where he was held overnight before his court appearance.

He will likely be transferred to one of the city's high-security detention centres.

Magnotta is suspected of killing and dismembering Lin, a 33-year-old Chinese citizen and permanent resident in Canada who was attending Concordia University.

Last month, Lin's torso was found in a suitcase outside an apartment in Montreal, the same day his hand and foot were mailed to the Ottawa offices of the federal Conservative and Liberal parties.

His other hand and foot were discovered by staff opening packages at two separate schools in Vancouver several days later.

An international warrant for his arrest listed five charges, including first-degree murder, committing an indignity to a human body, posting obscene material, mailing obscene material and criminal harassment of Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament.

Lafrenière said investigators have begun their interrogation process, and their priority is to locate Lin's severed head. DNA samples will be taken from Magnotta to explore possible links to other homicide cases, he said.

Widespread media coverage

Lin's family arrived in Canada earlier this month and posted an open letter saying the 33-year-old was their "pride and joy." They also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support and assistance they have received.

Police believe Lin was killed sometime around the evening of May 24 or early May 25. Video that allegedly captured some of the act was posted to an online gore site on May 25 and circulated on the web for several days.

The discovery of Lin's remains prompted an international manhunt for Magnotta, who fled first to France and later to Germany. He was arrested in a Berlin cybercafé on June 4.

The brutal details of Lin's death have drawn widespread media coverage both here in Canada and abroad. Lafrenière said the massive amount of public attention garnered by the case necessitated the secretive operation to get Magnotta back into Canada.

And a Montreal defence lawyer says that will make it difficult for Magnotta to receive a fair trial.

"The trial judge will have to make sure with each and every juror that there's no bias," Jeffrey Boro said.

With files from The Canadian Press