PARIS—The brief, 2-day trial of particle physicist Adlène Hicheur, who had been charged with "associating with criminals in relation to terrorist activities," ended on Friday, and the 35-year-old Franco-Algerian won't know until 4 May whether he will spend several more years behind bars or be able to resume his scientific career. The prosecution asked the three-judge panel for a 6-year prison sentence for Hicheur, who has already been held for two and a half years in the Fresnes jail near Paris.
The centerpiece of the prosecution's case is e-mails Hicheur has acknowledged exchanging with Mustafa Debchi, a supposed member of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. At one point, for example, Debchi suggested a suicide bombing. Hicheur declined, but the e-mails do show he discussed other possible actions, such as targeting military troops.
Hicheur, who during the e-mail exchange was off of work from the CERN particle physics facility in Switzerland due to a herniated disc, testified that he had been taking morphine for pain and was in a "turbulent period." "I was out of sorts at the time. … Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have responded to his e-mails," he said at the trial. Hicheur also explained his visits to various online forums discussing jihadist actions as "intellectual curiosity." But he rejected the prosecutor's attempt to label him as a pro-jihadist, saying "I am a simple Muslim."