Mexican suspected of gas plot against pope protesters

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A Mexican chemistry student accused of plotting a gas attack on protesters against Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid will appear in court on Thursday, a legal official said.

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, the official said Wednesday.

He is to face the National Court on Thursday, the same day the 84-year-old pontiff arrives for the final four days of festivities by more than a million pilgrims in Spain's capital.

More than 100 groups that oppose the pope's visit plan to protest Wednesday on the eve of his arrival.

They 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 a time of economic pain.

Police said Tuesday the arrested man was suspected of planning an attack with "asphyxiating gases" and other chemicals against the protesters.

Officers had seized the suspect's laptop, portable memory, and two notebooks containing notes about chemicals unrelated to his studies. But they made no mention of chemicals or equipment being taken.

"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 in a statement.

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.

It said police were tipped of by people who found the man's comments on Internet forums in which the student said that he could not accept attacks against the pope.

The man studied at Spanish Research Council's organic chemistry institute, police said.

© 2011 AFP

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