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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

London Suspect Says Bomb Meant to Scare

LONDON / ROME -- One of the prime suspects in the failed July 21 bombings in London told British and Italian investigators on Tuesday that a bag packed with explosives and nails had been meant to scare, not to kill.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair came under criticism from a UN envoy for the proposals he announced last Friday, under which anyone who preaches hatred or violence could be deported, those linked to terrorism would be automatically refused asylum and steps would be taken to make it easier to strip naturalized citizens of their British citizenship if they preached violence.

In Rome, suspect Hamdi Issac, also known as Osman Hussein, was questioned in a Rome jail for three hours in the presence of British investigators. Issac was seized in Rome on July 29 after fleeing London following the botched strike on the city's transport system. Britain charged three fellow suspects in the attacks with attempted murder on Monday. The July 21 attack came exactly two weeks after four bombers killed themselves and 52 others.

"He knew there were explosives, but it was just to make noise, not to kill," Issac's lawyer, Antonietta Sonnessa, told reporters after the questioning. "It was just for show and was not intended to hurt anybody."

But Issac acknowledged that along with the explosives, the rucksack he was carrying on the day of the attacks also contained nails, she said.

The questioning was presided over by Rome magistrate Domenico Miceli, who is to hold an extradition hearing Aug. 17.

Last week, in response to the bombings, Blair said the government was considering amending Britain's human rights legislation to make it easier to deport Islamic extremists. Current laws prevent Britain from deporting people to a country where they may face torture or death. But Blair said he was hoping to win pledges from several Middle Eastern nations that they would not subject deportees to inhumane treatment. An agreement already has been reached with Jordan, and London is talking to Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.

But Manfred Nowak, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, said on Tuesday that such deportations could breach international human rights laws.

"If there is a substantial risk in a certain country like Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, et cetera, then diplomatic assurances cannot be used," Nowak told BBC radio. "If a country usually and systematically practices torture, then of course they would deny they were doing it, because it is absolutely prohibited."

A spokeswoman for Blair's Downing Street office insisted Britain would deport people only if countries gave credible assurances that they would not mistreat detainees.

On Tuesday, one outspoken Muslim cleric who left in the wake of the Blair's pledge to crack down said he had merely gone on vacation and planned to return. Sheikh Omar Bakri, who has lived in Britain for 20 years, left for Lebanon on Saturday and associates said he would not come back.

Syrian-born Bakri said he had left Britain because he feared the government was using clerics like him as an excuse to rush in new laws and "put pressure on the Muslim community."

"I decided myself to go on holiday, which is for four or five weeks," he said. "I am going to return ... unless this government says you are not welcome."

Bakri, who used to live in Lebanon and holds Lebanese citizenship, had already said he might leave Britain to avoid retroactive charges under the new anti-terrorism measures.

(AP, Reuters)