A Paris judge yesterday issued an international arrest warrant for Abdeldrim Deneche in connection with the bombing of the Saint-Michel station in Paris last month.
The warrant came shortly after the Swedish chief procurator, Jan Danielsson, had said that the suspicion of "murder and complicity to murder" on which Mr Deneche was being held had been dropped in view of testimony that he had been in Sweden at the time of the Paris bombing. He said, however, that Mr Deneche would remain in custody for further questioning under special provisions relating to foreigners; Swedish officials said that he could face deportation.
Mr Deneche, an Algerian who has lived in Sweden since 1991, has been in custody near Stockholm since Monday when he was detained at the request of the French judge heading the Saint-Michel inquiry. The announcement of the arrest warrant was hailed by the French Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, who said it was the result of extremely hard work by French justice officials and the police conducted "in the framework of international agreements to which France and Sweden are signatory".
Earlier in the day, Mr Juppe had been one of several senior French officials to vent his anger on the French media for coverage which, he said, could jeopardise the investigation's progress. "The divulging of classified information has complicated the inquiry, placed the lives of witnesses in danger, and compromised the ability of the authorities to prevent further attacks," he said.
For his part, the Justice Minister, Jacques Toubon, announced that he had instructed the chief law officer of Paris to institute proceedings against "a person or persons unknown" for violating a secrecy order covering evidence given by witnesses in the Saint-Michel bombing case. The instruction referred to reports that appeared in yesterday's editions of the weekly Canard Enchaine and the daily le Monde, detailing evidence purportedly given by an off-duty gendarme travelling in the suburban train shortly before the bomb exploded.
Mr Toubon said the "detailed information" had been taken from the inquiry file which was classified as secret and should not have been divulged while the inquiry was in progress. Publication, he said, entailed "serious risks in cases of this nature" and could "prejudice the safety of witnesses, constrain the inquiry and increase the threat of fresh attacks".
Earlier, the Interior Minister, Jean-Louis Debre had deplored what he called the "premature report", first broadcast on the Paris-based Europe 1 radio station, about the arrest of Mr Deneche and the visit of Judge Jean-Francois Ricard to Sweden. Mr Ricard's office had said he was "on holiday".
The fury expressed by French officials yesterday reflected in part the frustrations of the inquiry and the public pressure on the authorities to find those responsible not just for the Saint-Michel bombing, but for the other two terrorist attacks in Paris that have been linked with it - the killing of the Muslim cleric, Imam Abdelbaki Sahraoui, and last week's bomb near the Arc de Triomphe.
All three attacks have been increasingly blamed on the extremist Algerian organisation, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which is campaigning for an Islamic regime in Algeria and against French support for the military government there.
The official anger directed at the media, however, also served to highlight the extent to which information about the inquiry has been "managed" by the French authorities. "Good news" - such as the issue of the photofit pictures, admissions of responsibility and the Ff1m reward - had a habit of being announced just in time for the main evening television news.
It now transpires, however, that much information was withheld. The GIA was clearly a prime suspect from the fourth day after the Saint-Michel bombing, when the gendarme positively identified at least one of the suspects (said to be Mr Deneche) from police photographs. That picture, and another recognised by the gendarme, were not released as photofits, presumably so as not to tip off the chief suspects.