French-Algerian physicist Adlène Hicheur, 35, was today sentenced by a French court to five years in prison for "criminal association with the intent to prepare terrorist acts." The court ruled that the Large Hadron Collider researcher's email exchange in 2009 with a presumed member of Al Qaeda "constituted a criminal act." From the New York Times:
The scientist, Adlène Hicheur, 35, did not deny the exchange of messages, in which he suggested targets for terrorist strikes in France, but maintains that he never intended to act on his words. The trial has raised difficult questions about the possible excesses of French antiterrorism law, which in effect treats intent as a criminal act.
A researcher at the Large Hadron Collider project at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Switzerland, Dr. Hicheur met his interlocutor on an Internet forum dedicated to radical Islam while on sick leave, nursing a herniated disk at his parents' home in southeastern France.