Suspect in Cyprus ammonium nitrate haul to stay in custody

AP News
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Posted: Jun 05, 2015 11:19 AM
Suspect in Cyprus ammonium nitrate haul to stay in custody

LARNACA, Cyprus (AP) — A Cypriot court on Friday extended the detention of a Lebanese-Canadian man who was arrested after police seized 5 tons of a chemical compound that can be turned into an explosive from a home he was staying in.

The court ordered that the 26-year-old suspect remain in police custody for a further eight days to help police with their investigation of the ammonium nitrate haul.

He faces charges of conspiracy to commit a criminal offense and possession and transportation of explosives.

Authorities will soon issue an international arrest warrant for the Lebanese-French owner of the Larnaca home, who is currently abroad, said a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

The official said the detained suspect had visited Cyprus several times in the past.

Authorities are still trying to determine what the chemical would have been used for and whether the suspect is linked to Lebanon's anti-Israel group Hezbollah.

The suspect's lawyer, Andreas Mathikolonis told The Associated Press that his client is denying any wrongdoing and rejects any connection to Hezbollah.

Mathikolonis said his client came to Cyprus with his parents last month to look for accommodation on the east Mediterranean island, which they considered moving to.

The family was given the keys to the home where the ammonium nitrate was stashed by the homeowner — a customer of the family's marble business in Lebanon — so that they could see whether it suited their needs. Neither the suspect nor his parents were aware the chemical was in the home's basement, Mathikolonis said.

He said his client was arrested after police raided the home where he had stayed for a single night following his parents' return to Lebanon.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou told the AP earlier this week that authorities had received a tip-off and put the home under surveillance for some time before it was raided.

In 2013, a Cypriot court sentenced a Swedish-Lebanese man who admitted he was a Hezbollah member to four years in prison after finding him guilty of helping to plan attacks on Israelis in Cyprus. No attacks were carried out.