A suspected Islamic State (Isis) militant who allegedly planned attacks in Italy and the UK has been released two days after he was arrested due to a lack of evidence. Hakim Nasiri was ordered to be released from a detention facility in the southern city of Bari on the evening of Thursday (12 May 2016) and is now reportedly keeping a low profile.
The 23-year-old was arrested on 10 May by police alleging he was a member of an Islamist cell linked to Isis (IS) and Al-Qaeda that was plotting attacks in Italy and Britain. Police claimed that images of landmarks, including a number of London hotels and Rome's Colosseum, found on Nasiri's mobile phones were taken during scouting operations on presumptive targets.
In one photo, said to be taken in the UK, the Afghan national was seen holding what appeared to be a M16 semi-automatic rifle. However, his laywer, Adriano Pallesca, has claimed it to be a toy gun. Jihadi propaganda material was also found in the man's possession.
However, 48 hours after his arrest, a judge called to confirm the precautionary detention pending trial ruled that Nasiri should be released, saying that evidence gathered by the investigators was unsatisfactory.
Explaining the decision, Judge Francesco Agnino said that, although elements available suggested the suspect "belonged to the world of radical Islam", there was no indication that he actively attempted to turn radical ideas into actions.
"There is absolutely no sign he expressed the will to join jihad or looked for an operative contact that could have helped him put into practice plans of death," Agnino wrote, according to Ansa news agency. The judge also argued that videos and images of purported targets were too short or inaccurate to be deemed part of "careful and thorough planning" operation ahead of an attack.
Prosecutors said they would appeal against the decision. Meanwhile, Nasiri's whereabouts are not clear. Pallesca has told Italian media that he had not been able to get in touch with his client since he was released.
The court also ruled that two other suspects arrested this week in connection with the same alleged terror ring, in these instances on suspicion of aiding illegal immigration, should remain in custody.