LARNACA, Cyprus – 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 in a closed hearing that the 26-year-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.
A security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to publicly discuss the case said authorities will soon issue an international arrest warrant for the Lebanese-French owner of the Larnaca home, who is currently abroad.
The official said the ammonium nitrate was packaged as chemical ice. He said the Canadian-educated suspect who completed a university degree in Lebanon had visited Cyprus several times in the past.
Authorities are still trying to determine what the chemical would have been used for.
The suspect's lawyer, Andreas Mathikolonis told the Associated Press that his client is denying any wrongdoing and that he came to Cyprus with his parents last month only to either purchase or rent a home on the east Mediterranean island.
Mathikolonis said the family had been staying at a Larnaca-area hotel and had been given the keys to the home where the ammonium nitrate was stashed to determine whether it suited their needs. They were unaware that the chemical was there.
The lawyer said his client was arrested after police raided the home where he had stayed for just one night.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou told The Associated Press 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.