British police question bombing suspect in Rome

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Officers from Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch were finally able to interview the fifth July 21 London bomb suspect in Rome on Tuesday.

Hamdi Issac, also known as Hussain Osman, confirmed he was one of the men involved in the failed attacks during almost three hours of questioning at the high security Regina Coeli prison.

British officials were granted access to Mr Issac for the first time under a “letter rogatory”, a legal process in which suggested questions from the UK authorities are put to the suspect by an Italian magistrate.

Mr Issac, who was arrested in a Rome suburb on July 29 and is facing extradition to Britain under a European arrest warrant, was shown photographs of other July 21 suspects and confirmed that he recognised them.

During the interrogation, Ethiopian-born Mr Issac said the contents of the knapsack he had carried on July 21 showed that he had not intended to kill anyone. According to his court-appointed Italian lawyer, he told British and Italian officials that his bag had contained nails and light explosives made of herbicides and flour.

“He knew the contents of his knapsack and he knew that they were not intended to harm anyone,” Maria Antonietta Sonnessa, his lawyer, said.

The Metropolitan police are confident that the extradition will be handled swiftly and smoothly. An Italian court has set August 17 as the date for Mr Issac's extradition hearing.

If he is ordered to be transferred to the UK, he is expected to launch an appeal, which will take a minimum of several weeks to be concluded.

However, the push for a quick extradition by British police has drawn comparisons by other countries who have been frustrated by the the complex and often slow process that they have faced in trying to extradite terrorism suspects from Britain.

For example, France has been trying for a decade to secure the extradition of Rachid Ramda, an Algerian suspected of links to the group that carried out the 1995 Metro bombings in Paris.

This week, a woman crippled in the French bombings called the Ramda case “a malfunctioning of the British justice system”.

Comparing the Ramda and Issac cases, Françoise Rudetzki, president of a SOS Attentats which helps terrorist victims, told The Daily Telegraph, the British newspaper: “What would the British think 10 years fromnow if he was still inItaly?”

Some other extradition attempts have proved unsuccessful. Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot alleged to have trained some of the September 11 hijackers, walked free after a judge found no evidence to support the US's extradition application.

Abu Hamza, a radical cleric in London, was originally arrested on a US extradition warrant for terror-related charges but those proceedings have been adjourned while he faces domestic charges, including incitement to murder.

However, Britain's extradition laws were recently changed to speed up removals in response to criticisms.

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