Student held after threat to gas papal protesters

Spanish police have arrested a man allegedly planning to attack a protest which criticised the public cost of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI today.

The suspect, a 24-year-old chemistry student from Mexico, had denounced the protesters on a conservative Catholic website, warning he would attack them with "asphyxiating gases and other chemicals", police said in a statement yesterday. Police said he also used web forums to find accomplices, but no one else has been arrested.

The man was charged with crimes of terrorism and will appear before a judge today. Officials found no dangerous chemicals at his home, but confiscated his computer and two notebooks containing formulae. The Mexican embassy identified him as Jose Perez Bautista and said he was from Puebla state.

Thousands of Madrid residents planned to protest last night against using public funds for a religious celebration during an economic crisis.

With event costs ranging between €50m (£44m) and €100m, the protesters denounce the public spending to finance World Youth Day and the Pope's four-day visit, plus tax breaks given to corporate sponsors. While Spaniards are enduring an economic recession, the visitors have received free housing and public-transport discounts.

"Citizens should not pay for the religious travels of someone who preaches doctrines that one may or may not agree with," the Secular Europe group said in a statement.

"Why should I put money to spread the doctrine of or strengthen an organisation that considers women to be secondary, is homophobic, forbids condom use even though thousands die of Aids?"