At least two of the six young Quebecers who left Canada for Istanbul, suspected of heading to Syria to fight with jihadists, were acquainted with well-known Quebec Muslim leader Adil Charkaoui.

One of the six attended a protest against the proposed Charter of Quebec Values in September 2013, where Charkaoui was seen speaking into his ear more than once. At the time, the young man was in contact with the Quebec Collective Against Islamophobia.

Charkaoui acknowledges he spoke to the man, but told Radio-Canada that he spoke to many people who volunteered with him and said he’s the victim of a smear campaign.

The young man also attended the east-end Montreal Islamic community centre where Charkaoui was a leader.

“This young man came to the centre like other people and participated in activities like other people, like thousands of young people who come to the centre,” said Charkaoui.

Earlier this week, the parents of a second man who left the country confirmed he took a course with Charkaoui.

Charkaoui under scrutiny

Montreal’s Collège de Maisonneuve CEGEP abruptly suspended a contract to rent classroom space to Charkaoui on the same day it was learned that the six young Quebecers left the country.

At the time, the school said it was suspending the contract after it found out a video was circulated among members of the school that was described as “promoting values that are different from ours.”

Collège de Maisonneuve had agreed to rent four classrooms to teach Arabic and Qur’an studies, as well as two sports courts, to Charkaoui’s Ecole des compagnons.

Collège de Rosement also suspended its contract on Thursday with the school, which is associated with the Islamic community centre.

The break between Charkaoui and Collège de Maisonneuve happened the same day it was learned that six young Quebecers are believed to have joined the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria.

Charkaoui was arrested in 2003 on a security certificate under suspicion of terrorism-related activities. He won his challenge of the certificate several years later.

He now lives in Montreal and is an outspoken advocate against Islamophobia. He became a Canadian citizen last summer.

Charkaoui denies involvement in departure

Charkaoui flatly denies any involvement with the departure of the youth. He said has been the victim of an “unprecedented” smear campaign.

“Nobody has had to put up with this much mudslinging. I’ve made headlines more often than the premier of Quebec and the prime minister of Canada put together. That’s not normal.”

He said he is planning on suing some media outlets.