A court sketch of French jihadist Gilles Le Guen. Photo: AFP
Gilles Le Guen, a 60-year-old who goes by the name Abdel Jelil, was detained by French forces near Timbuktu in in April, 2013.
Le Guen is understood to have joined the north African militant organisation Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) after moving to Mali with his family.
In October, Le Guen appeared in Islamic dress with a gun at his side in a video on a Mauritanian website in which he warned France, the United States and the United Nations against military intervention in Mali to drive Islamists from the country's arid north.
France went on to launch and lead an operation in January to halt an advance by extremists on Bamako and drive them from Mali's northern cities which they had controlled for about nine months.
Le Guen was held prisoner by AQIM for several days in November 2012 and some sources say the group believed he was a spy while others say AQIM picked him up after he intervened to stop Islamists from mistreating women.
Le Guen said in his trial that he only “invested” two months with the group, but had planned to leave it as it had “nothing to offer the people”, reported French newspaper Le Figaro.
Since the Paris terror attacks in January, France officials have been on high alert when it comes to fighting jihadists. A raft of new surveillance measures were passed this month giving authorities unprecedented permission to monitor suspected jihadists online and in their homes.
There are an estimated 3,000 French citizens who have left France to wage jihad.