Adlene Hicheur, a Franco-Algerian nuclear physicist, was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison, with one year suspended, because of his conviction in the plotting of terrorist attacks.
For the past two years, Hicheur, formerly associated with the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, has been in a French prison awaiting trial after police in 2009 intercepted emails he had exchanged with an alleged al Qaeda contact.
In their investigation, the authorities also found significant quantities of Islamist militant literature at his parents' home following his arrest, Agence France-Presse reported via the Hindustan Times.
The trial that began in March centered on evidence from 35 emails between Hicheur and Mustapha Debchi, a supposed member of the North African branch of al Qaeda living in Algeria.
The court convicted Hicheur of criminal association with a view to plotting terrorist attacks. His five-year sentence is one-half of what he could have received for this kind of conviction.
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According to AFP's report on Friday, Hicheur suggested in the emails possible objectives in Europe and particularly in France, mentioning a French military base at Cran-Gevrier.
Also in the emails, Debchi asked Hicheur if he was prepared to work in a unit becoming active in France, to which Hicheur replied, [T]he answer is of course YES.
According to the BBC, the 35-year-old scientist claims he did not have any intention of following through with any sort of attack and that he had been going through a psychologically turbulent time in his life when he wrote the emails, due to heavy medication from a back injury.
However, the prosecutor rejected this argument and described the accused as a man who had everything going for him ... but just got led astray in a radical jihadist Islam. He also referred to Hicheur as a budding terrorist, according to the Associated Press.
Hicheur's lawyer, Patrick Baudouin, said he considered the verdict scandalous and added that everything has been done to demonize him [Hicheur] ... to make him into ... France's most dangerous terrorist, potentially susceptible to participate in a bombing.
Baudouin argued that his client did not take any concrete steps toward carrying out an attack and did not intend to, but rather was a victim of overzealous anti-terror laws in France.
The recent attacks carried out in March in Toulouse and Montauban by 23-year-old Mohamed Merah, another Algerian apparently linked to al Qaeda, certainly did not help Hicheur's case.
Hicheur has not yet decided whether he will appeal the verdict.