PARIS—Particle physicist Adlène Hicheur, accused by French authorities of "associating with criminals in relation to terrorist activities," went on trial in Paris today. Police arrested the 35-year-old, Algerian-born scientist, who works for CERN in Switzerland on 8 October 2009 as he was reportedly on his way to Algeria to buy a plot of land. Hicheur has languished in Fresnes prison, near Paris, since then.
This is not a good time to begin the trial, argues Hicheur's lawyer, Patrick Baudouin. France is still recovering from the slaughter earlier this month of seven children and soldiers in Toulouse and Montauban by an Islamic radical, Mohamed Merah. The two cases are very different but could become mixed in the public mind, Baudouin warns. In an interview with French radio this morning, Baudouin said that he had wanted to ask that the trial be postponed, but that Hicheur had refused because he was eager to explain his side.
Hicheur, whose brother Halim is also a scientist, was under surveillance by the French intelligence services in 2008 after exchanging e-mails in Arabic with Mustafa Debchi, a supposed member of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, according to news reports.