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Freed biochemist says he knew suicide bombers

London Guardian | August 10, 2005

An Egyptian biochemist who was held for 25 days in Cairo on suspicion of involvement in the first London suicide bomb attacks revealed details of his relationship with two of the bombers yesterday as he was released from custody.

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Family and friends of Magdi Mahmoud el-Nashar, 33, cheered as he returned to his home in the Egyptian capital yesterday, having been cleared by the authorities there of any involvement in the bombings.

The scientist was falsely labelled the "mastermind" behind the July 7 suicide attacks, which killed 56 people, after it was claimed that he rented a flat in Burley, Leeds, to one of the bombers, Jermaine Lindsay.

As he arrived home, Dr Nashar said he was innocent and planned to sue some British newspapers. He hoped to return to Britain next Sunday but was frightened of the reception he would receive.

"I want to go back to England, but if people see me in the street, and don't know I'm innocent, and they think I'm the one who attacked London, what will they do to me? They could kill me," Dr Nashar said.

"The problem is the media and the big propaganda against me," Dr Nashar said. "They said that I was a terrorist, that I planned these attacks; they showed my picture, so many people now think I am really guilty of this."

Dr Nashar said that he was engaged to a British convert to Islam named Marriam, and that he is eager to return to England. "I have everything to go back to," Dr Nashar said. "I have my scholarship, and all my stuff there, and I am about to get married, and all these things. I don't know how they could say that I was involved."

The scientist, who spent five years in postgraduate studies at Leeds University, confirmed he had known two of the suicide attackers - Lindsay, 19, of Aylesbury, Bucks, who he knew as "Jamal", and Hasib Hussein, 18, of Beeston, Leeds.

He had rented the flat in Burley to Lindsay, the Russell Square bomber, in the weeks before the suicide attacks. Police later discovered it was being used as a bomb factory.

Dr Nashar said he had met Lindsay in Leeds during the Muslim festival of Ramadan in October-November last year. He said Lindsay had asked him in June for help in finding somewhere to live in Leeds so he could move there from London with his wife and child.

He found the flat in Alexandra Grove, Burley, through his landlord. He said he had then been introduced by Lindsay to a man called Muhammad, who turned out to be Hussain.

The biochemist said he had helped Lindsay because he was a "new convert [to Islam]" who was "very kind and very nice. He asked me for the key to my flat. He said he wanted to stay there for a short time and I agreed. The reason for suspecting me was because I specialise in chemistry. I am completely innocent."

Dr Nashar said he had left Leeds shortly before July 7 for a six-week holiday with his family in Cairo after completing his doctorate.

He was detained on July 15 by the Egyptian authorities and should have been released earlier but for the second wave of London attacks and the Sharm el-Sheikh bombings in Egypt.

A Metropolitan police source said yesterday that Dr Nashar had not been interviewed by British anti-terrorist police but officers had been kept informed by the Egyptian authorities. The Met would not comment on whether it would interview or arrest Dr Nashar if he returned to the UK. Of his imprisonment he said that despite Egypt's reputation for dealing harshly with prisoners he was treated well.

"I had my own room with air conditioner, and a private bathroom. I had very nice food. I told them I would come again for a visit," Nashar said

As he arrived home in the Basatin area of Cairo early yesterday, Dr Nashar found his father was the first to greet him.

"We heard the knock at the door, and his father went down to answer. He started screaming, 'Magdi! Magdi is here!' said his mother, who gave her name only as Umm Magdi (mother of Magdi).

She had been able to speak to her son only once by phone since his detention and the family had not been allowed to visit him.

Friends in Leeds said they hoped to see him return to the city, where he still rents a flat in the Hyde Park area and had hoped to find a job.

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