Mexican accused of gas plot on pope protesters freed

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A Mexican chemistry student accused by police of plotting a gas attack on anti-papal protesters said he only meant it as a "joke", and has been freed on bail, a court said Thursday.

Spain's National Court said in a written ruling that 24-year-old Jose Alvano Perez Bautista's comments on an Internet page could result in charges of making aggravated or even terrorist threats.

The student, who was among 30,000 volunteers for World Youth Day celebrations led by Pope Benedict XVI, is accused of making threats on a discussion page of online newspaper La Voz Libre (The Free Voice).

In comments that alarmed other readers, he was accused of writing: "I have hydrochloric acid and 50 bottles of benzyl bromide, with that we can make a good asphyxiating mixture."

He also boasted of hoping to obtain litres of chlorine gas to make 100-millilitre capsules. "We have less than eight days to get organised, to kill queers and in the name of God."

In another message, he is accused of writing: "Come on mates, we need some fertilizer, I repeat we do not need money, just bring fertilizer, naptha, gunpowder or matches or a lighter will do. The only aim is to kill these dirty queers. On their anti-pope march is a good time to get them together and impale them and then burn them as queers."

The threatening comments were allegedly made by the suspect under the online identity BAGMAN 69. But the Internet address was tracked down to Perez Bautista's address, the court papers showed.

Bautista, who is in Spain on a student visa, was arrested at a Madrid conference centre pavilion on Tuesday as he worked as a volunteer for the Roman Catholic festivity.

In a declaration, the chemistry student said that he considered the threats to be a "joke", aiming only to limit the number of people joining the protest and restrain favourable comments.

But the court said his comments provoked enough fear to cause other readers to inform the police.

Further investigations could yet lead to charges of making terrorist threats for "gravely disturbing public peace or for those purposes striking fear" into people, the ruling said.

Because of his lack of roots in Spain, the court said Perez Bautista should report to his local Madrid police station twice a day, be contactable at any time and remain in Spain.

Police said Tuesday they had seized his laptop, portable memory, and two notebooks containing notes about chemicals unrelated to his studies at the Spanish Research Council's organic chemistry institute.

They made no mention of any chemicals or equipment for such an attack being taken.

In his home town of Puebla, central Mexico, the accused 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 Benedict'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.

© 2011 AFP

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