ROME - One of the July 21 bomb suspects has claimed the devices used in the failed attacks contained only flour, according to his lawyer.
In a report in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Antonietta Sonnessa quoted Hussain Osman, now in custody in Rome, as saying: "I would never have killed anyone, let alone did I even dream of committing a suicide bombing. I value my life, I've never even considered dying.
"It was a demonstrative action, as I've told you many times. I swear to you: in that bag there was a detonator but the rest was flour. It would have made a bang and scared people. That was all I did."
Sonnessa made it clear that her top priority in defending Osman was to foil efforts by the Crown Prosecution Service to extradite him to Britain.
The bedrock of her argument against extradition is that Osman's bomb was merely "a demonstrative action", intended to scare the British public but not meant to hurt anyone, not even Osman himself.
With the help of his young, good-looking lawyer, who according to one Italian paper "has become a sort of diva in Britain", Osman has been at pains to paint himself as a young man who has absolutely nothing in common with hard-core Islamist terrorists like the ones who died in the bombings of July 7.
It is claimed that he is not a Somali at all but an Ethiopian called Hamdi Issac who adopted a false name and nationality to obtain refugee status in Britain.
In Rome, where he lived for several years as a teenager before coming to Britain, his "big dark eyes, like those of a fawn, and his long thick eyelashes" earned him the nickname Bambi, said a former girlfriend quoted in La Repubblica.
Osman's brother Remzi, arrested with Osman after the fugitive was found in his flat on the outskirts of Rome and now locked up with him in the same prison, went some way to confirming the image of the failed bomber as an innocuous charmer.
In comments leaked by Ms Sonnessa, he said: "Hamdi was the baby of the family, and we always loved him."
He said that he gave him shelter "because I know he's not a terrorist, and certainly I'm not one either. It's true that I'm a Muslim, I pray. But I hate the extremists, and it's not right that I have to stay in jail just because of my dark skin."
Ms Sonnessa said that Osman was terrified at the prospect of being extradited to Britain.
"I'm scared to go back to Britain, I'm scared of what I could suffer in jail there, I'm scared of having to spend the rest of my life in a cell," she quoted him as saying to her during a three-hour interview in Rome's Regina Coeli prison.
"I beg you, do everything you can to enable me to stay here."
The lawyer commented: "We are examining every possibility to avoid him being handed over to the British authorities. I am convinced that here Issac could get a fair trial and prove that what he did was just a demonstration. He denied from the outset that his group had any links to the July 7 bombers."
"Certainly there is an organisation in London," Ms Sonnessa quoted him as saying, "but I don't belong to it. I made a mistake and if I could turn back the clock I wouldn't do it again. I don't trust the English police. And it seems that the Italian magistrates don't trust them either."