Published: Mar 29, 2012 23:59 Updated: Mar 29, 2012 23:59
PARIS: A Franco-Algerian nuclear scientist went on trial yesterday for allegedly plotting terror attacks in France, where a killing spree has already overshadowed the presidential campaign.
A week after police shot dead Franco-Algerian Mohamed Merah for killing seven people in and around Toulouse, Adlene Hicheur went on trial charged with criminal association as part of a terrorist enterprise.
Meanwhile, Merah was buried yesterday in Toulouse where the violence occurred after its mayor dropped a refusal to permit the ceremony in the city.
Merah was to have been interred in a village in the North African country at the request of his father who lives there, but this was declined for security reasons, Abdallah Zekri, an adviser to the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris said yesterday.
French police arrested Hicheur, a researcher studying the universe’s birth — the Big Bang — at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), in October 2009 after intercepting e-mails he wrote.
The trial began yesterday afternoon in a Paris courtroom and was to last two days, with the court to examine 35 e-mails between Hicheur and an alleged Al-Qaeda contact.
Following his arrest at his parents’ home near CERN, which lies on the Franco-Swiss border northwest of Geneva, police discovered a trove of Al-Qaeda and militant literature.
France’s DCRI domestic intelligence agency’s suspicions were raised following a statement from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that was sent to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Elysee Palace in early 2008.
Police carried out surveillance on several e-mail accounts including Hicheur’s and his exchanges with Mustapha Debchi, an alleged AQIM representative living in Algeria.
On March 1, 2009, Hicheur wrote an e-mail to Debchi saying he would “propose… possible objectives in Europe and particularly in France.”
On March 10, he continued: “Concerning the matter of objectives, they differ depending on the different results sought after the hits. For example: if it’s about punishing the state because of its military activities in Muslim countries — Afghanistan — then it should be a purely military objective. For example: the air base at Karan Jefrier near Annecy in France. This base trains troops and sends them to Afghanistan.” Hicheur was referring to a French military base at Cran-Gevrier, close to CERN.
In June 2009, Debchi asked Hicheur: “Don’t beat around the bush: Are you prepared to work in a unit becoming active in France?”