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Franco-Algerian nuclear physicist jailed for terror plot

AFP/Benoît Peyrucq

A Franco-Algerian nuclear physicist has been jailed for plotting terror attacks in France. Adlène Hicheur exchanged emails with an Al-Qaeda representative while on sick leave from the Cern European nuclear research organisation.

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Hicheur, 35, admitted that he was going through a “turbulent” time when he sent the emails to Mustapha Debchi, an alleged representative of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) in Algeria.

But he denied intending to carry out the attacks, even though he suggested "possible objectives in Europe and particularly in France", for example a French military base at Cran-Gevrier, close to Cern.

Asked by Debchi if he was "prepared to work in a unit becoming active in France," Hicheur replied, "The answer is of course YES".

Hicheur, who was researching the origins of the universe, was arrested in 2009 but his trail did not begin a week after police shot dead Toulouse killer Mohamed Merah, who also had both French and Algerian nationality.

He told the court the emails were written while his "physical and psychological state" was impaired while he was on sick leave for a slipped disc.

Magistrates found that he had "knowingly agreed with Mustapha Debchi to set up an operational cell ready to carry out terrorist acts in Europe and in France" and sentenced him to five years ago, one of them suspended.

He has already served two and a half years awaiting trial.

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