Mexican accused of gas plot against anti-pope protest
A Mexican chemistry student faces a judge Thursday accused of plotting a gas attack on protesters against Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid.
The 24-year-old Mexican, in Spain on a student visa, was one of about 30,000 volunteers helping in the August 16-21 World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid, according to a court official.
He is face the National Court on the same day the 84-year-old pontiff arrives to join the final four days of festivities by more than a million pilgrims in Spain's capital.
Police said in a statement Tuesday that the man, Jose Alvano Perez Bautista, was suspected of planning an attack with "asphyxiating gases" and other chemicals against the protesters.
Officers seized the suspect's laptop, portable memory, and two notebooks containing notes about chemicals unrelated to his studies at the Spanish Research Council's organic chemistry institute, police said.
But police made no mention of any chemicals or equipment for such an attack being taken.
Spain's daily El Pais said police were tipped off by people who found the man's comments on Internet forums in which the student said that he could not allow protests against the pope.
But in his home town of Puebla, central Mexico, the man's former university professor Fernando Sartillo said he was suprised by the arrest.
"He was an outstanding student, more than outstanding, exceptional. He was a very hard worker, intelligent," said Sartillo of the Autonomous University of Puebla.
"Perhaps what he wrote was a joke that we would find funny here but there they treat differently," the professor said.
More than 100 groups that oppose the pope's visit protested Wednesday on the eve of the pope's arrival, some clashing with Roman Catholics and with riot police in central Madrid.
The protesters include groups representing gays and lesbians, feminists as well as leftist political parties.
Many of those in Spain's 15-M "indignant" movement -- launched on May 15 against the management of the economic crisis -- are also taking part to protest the cost of the event at at time of economic pain.
Mexican consular officials had visited him in jail and confirmed he was in good health, had a duty lawyer and had been well treated, said the spokesman for the country's embassy, Bernardo Graue.
"The arrested man is the suspected author of planning for an attack with asphyxiating gases and other chemical substances against participants in protests against the visit of His Holiness Benedict XVI," police said.
The daily El Pais said police had no proof that the suspect was capable of carrying out an attack but wanted to avoid even the chance of a failed attack that might panic people.
© 2011 AFP