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TERRORISM

French CERN nuke expert jailed for terror plot

A Franco-Algerian nuclear physicist was sentenced Friday to five years in jail – with one year suspended – for plotting terror attacks in France.

Police arrested Adlene Hicheur, a 35-year-old researcher studying the universe’s birth – the Big Bang – at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in October 2009 after intercepting his emails.

His father embraced him in the Paris court room before he was taken away to serve his term in prison. Hicheur has already spent two and a half years in jail while awaiting trial.

Hicheur admitted at the start of his trial in late March that he was going through a “turbulent” time when he wrote the mails but denied he intended to carry out attacks.

The trial of Hicheur, who was charged with criminal association as part of a terrorist enterprise, began a week after police shot dead Franco-Algerian Mohamed Merah for killing seven people in and around the city of Toulouse.

Prosecutors focused on emails between Hicheur and an alleged Al-Qaeda contact.

Hicheur 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.

Following Hicheur’s arrest at his parents’ home near CERN, the research institute which lies on the Franco-Swiss border northwest of Geneva, police discovered a trove of Al-Qaeda and Islamist militant literature.

France’s DCRI domestic intelligence agency’s suspicions were raised after a statement from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was sent to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Elysee Palace in early 2008.

Following the message police carried out surveillance on several email accounts including Hicheur’s and his exchanges with Mustapha Debchi, an alleged AQIM representative living in Algeria.

In the emails Hicheur suggested “possible objectives in Europe and particularly in France”, mentioning 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”. 

Magistrates investigating the case said the exchanges “crossed the line of simple debate of political or religious ideas to enter the sphere of terrorist violence.”

They say the accused “knowingly agreed with Mustapha Debchi to set up an operational cell ready to carry out terrorist acts in Europe and in France.”

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CRIME

Surgeon fined for trying to sell Paris terror attack victim’s x-ray

A Paris court on Wednesday convicted a surgeon for trying to sell an X-Ray image of a wounded arm of a woman who survived the 2015 terror attacks in the French capital.

Surgeon fined for trying to sell Paris terror attack victim's x-ray

Found guilty of violating medical secrecy, renowned orthopaedic surgeon Emmanuel Masmejean must pay the victim €5,000 or face two months in jail, judges ordered.

Masmejean, who works at the Georges-Pompidou hospital in western Paris, posted the image of a young woman’s forearm penetrated by a Kalashnikov bullet on marketplace Opensea in late 2021.

The site allows its roughly 20 million users to trade non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – certificates of ownership of an artwork that are stored on a “blockchain” similar to the technology used to secure cryptocurrencies.

In the file’s description, the surgeon wrote that the young woman he had operated on had “lost her boyfriend in the attack” on the Bataclan concert hall, the focus of the November 2015 gun and bomb assault in which jihadists killed 130 people.

The X-Ray image never sold for the asking price of $2,776, and was removed from Opensea after being revealed by investigative website Mediapart in January.

Masmejean claimed at a September court hearing that he had been carrying out an “experiment” by putting a “striking and historic medical image” online – while acknowledging that it had been “idiocy, a mistake, a blunder”.

The court did not find him guilty of two further charges of abuse of personal data and illegally revealing harmful personal information.

Nor was he barred from practicing as prosecutors had urged, with the lead judge saying it would be “disproportionate and inappropriate” to inflict such a “social death” on the doctor.

The victim’s lawyer Elodie Abraham complained of a “politically correct” judgement.

“It doesn’t bother anyone that there’s been such a flagrant breach of medical secrecy. It’s not a good message for doctors,” Abraham said.

Neither Masmejean, who has been suspended from his hospital job, nor the victim were present for Wednesday’s ruling.

The surgeon may yet face professional consequences after appearing before the French medical association in September, his lawyer Ivan Terel said.

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