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Arrested CERN Physicist Gets 5 Years For Terror Plot 155

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-want-them-getting-black-hole-technology dept.
An anonymous reader sends this followup to news we discussed in 2009 of a CERN physicist who was arrested for allegedly being in contact with al-Qaeda. The physicist, Adlene Hicheur, has now been sentenced to five years in prison. "He came under suspicion when threatening messages were sent to President Sarkozy in early 2008. The security services uncovered a series of email exchanges between Hicheur and an alleged al-Qaeda member called Mustapha Debchi. After his arrest in 2009 police found a large quantity of Islamist literature at his parents' home. At the start of his trial the 35-year-old scientist admitted that he had been going through a psychologically 'turbulent' time in his life when he wrote the emails. He had suffered a serious back injury, for which he had been taking morphine. But he always denied he intended to carry out any attacks."
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Arrested CERN Physicist Gets 5 Years For Terror Plot

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2012 @03:45PM (#39895699)

    Well, that's OK then, let him go.

  • He was probably going to blow up CERN the fracking wanker.
    • Yeah! Just leave that to the birds [guardian.co.uk]! :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What's a fracking wanker? Is that like, someone who jerks off to the extraction of shale oil?

    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Friday May 04, 2012 @03:50PM (#39895763)

      Or *use* CERN to destroy the false vacuum.

    • Re:What a dick. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Friday May 04, 2012 @03:52PM (#39895795) Homepage Journal

      Nice guess: "General director of the National Police Frederic Pechenard stated in November 2009 that Hicheur planned to attack a base of the National Defence in Annecy, which harbours the 27eme bataillon de chasseurs alpins, involved in Afghanistan." (Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].)

      In short, it looks like he was a scientist who hated the government, not someone bent on destroying the accomplishments of western civilization.

      Interestingly, the BBC article calls CERN "Cern" as though it were a person. To whom do we address our complaints?

      • Re:What a dick. (Score:4, Informative)

        by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday May 04, 2012 @04:13PM (#39896069) Homepage

        I think I read before that BBC policy is to only capitalize the first letter of acronyms, as distinct in this context from initialisms, which are when you abbreviate something with the first letter of every word but don't pronounce the result as if a word e.g. Cern vs EPA.

        • by mug funky (910186)

          that's dumb.

          Britons call it "the beeb" anyway, should we not call them the Bbc?

          • by jo_ham (604554)

            Well, it stands for British Broadcasting Corporation, so by their own rules, that would be BBC.

            We also call it many things - the beeb, the BBC, auntie, channel one/two etc.

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            Eh it makes a certain kind of sense, but someone below said they do PC as Pc which is even dumber.

          • by Chrisq (894406)

            that's dumb.

            Britons call it "the beeb" anyway, should we not call them the Bbc?

            Well. you could always LASER anyone who comes onto your RADAR for using that practice.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2012 @04:26PM (#39896237)

        Interestingly, the BBC article calls CERN "Cern" as though it were a person. To whom do we address our complaints?

        To Bbc?

      • Interestingly, the BBC article calls CERN "Cern" as though it were a person. To whom do we address our complaints?

        I've made this complaint in the past. They also write PC as Pc (which is an initialism, not an acronym - the other poster claiming that they only did this idiocy for acronyms is wrong). Their reply was that it is their house style to only capitalise the first letter of initialisms. This is not in any way standard English, but they decided to do it just to be special.

        • This is not in any way standard English

          Of course not, there's no such thing.

          • Sure there is. The best part is that there are so many different standards to choose from—and in practice they're all ignored. Just like any other standard.
    • He was probably getting anti-matter to blow up the Vatican.

      • by tinkerton (199273)

        Actually he was a secret agent of the pentecostal church trying to trigger the apocalypse by creating a mini black hole that would end up engulfing the planet.

    • by ppanon (16583)
      Who knows? Maybe some people thought that black hole creation theory was probable and decided they wanted to secure that weapon of mass destruction for use against the decadent West.
  • I'm intrigued by the nearly-impressionistic courtroom sketch artist's work displayed in the article.

  • Thought Crime (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Friday May 04, 2012 @03:52PM (#39895791)
    As far as I can tell this guy did not actually do anything. He got 5 years for a thought crime.
    • Ah; but since the authorities made fairly significant fools of themselves in the prior guy-tooling-around-on-a-motor-scooter-and-shooting-people case, somebody has to go to jail for being a scary rag-head...
      • by tomhath (637240)
        Please explain how they made fools of themselves. They caught up with the guy pretty quickly; unfortunately after he committed some pretty heinous crimes.
    • Re:Thought Crime (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2012 @03:57PM (#39895861)

      He did confess to writing the threatening emails. that is considered a crime.

      • by 0111 1110 (518466)

        Perhaps the fact that it is considered a crime is the point. We have so few actual terrorists that we need to start arresting people who merely fantasize about it. Whatever happened to "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

        • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday May 04, 2012 @07:30PM (#39897921) Journal
          Issuing death threats in writing or over the phone is a crime in most places, when done in a manner that can be recorded a direct threat of violence ceases to be a thought crime and becomes a stated intention, (metaphorically, it's a declaration of war). OTHOH, 5yrs is way over the top for such a trivial offence against the peace the rest of us actively maintain, especially since he had time to act on his threats but chose not to. A weekend in the slammer would be more than enough to convince him he's not as 'smart' as he thinks he is.

          I think more fair chunk of the violence in the world could be averted if someone steps in early and cools things down with a glimpse of the consequences (or a distractingly funny one liner), but 5yrs is stepping in with jackboots since it's longer than most people get for carrying out their verbal threats of violence.

          In other words, there are no GoodGuys(TM) in TFA, it's not a matter of choosing who's right because neither side has a moral or ethical leg to stand on.
        • Whatever happened to "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

          Words like yelling Fire in a crowded place or threatening the POTUS (1917 [wikipedia.org])? Or Hate Speech laws... there are lots of words which are actionable.

        • by TheLink (130905)

          Whatever happened to "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

          What happened? That remark has never been true soon after words were invented.

          And just wait till voice controlled stuff becomes even more popular and prevalent.

    • Oh nice. So we need to allow terrorists to hit their target before pressing charges otherwise they're "innocent". This isn't EVE Online.
      • by 0111 1110 (518466)

        So you want to convict people of just thinking about terrorism? You do realize that the definition of "terrorism" is going to continue to expand? Eventually it will include some activity that you think about.

      • by Jonner (189691)

        Contemplating violence is quite different from taking concrete, provable steps toward that goal. The article is extremely light on what this guy planned to do or what steps he took.

    • You know, with shoplifters, you can't arrest them until they leave the shop with the goods. And that's a good thing. There's always the outside chance that the frozen chicken they've stuffed up their jumper will be presented at the checkout before they leave.

      With terrorists, it's not such a good idea to wait until they've actually committed the physical crime. That tends to cost a lot of lives.

      • Not around here (Raleigh, NC). They call it "concealing merchandise" and it's prosecuted like a misdemeanor larceny charge.

      • Someone is generally innocent until they do/try to do something. Otherwise it's just a thought crime (unless they were threatening to do something and those threats were very likely to be carried out).

        I understand the desire to protect people, but not at the cost of individual rights. Everything else is just "for the children"/TSA mentality.

        • He did do something. He entered into email correspondence with a terrorist organisation offering to carry out a terrorist act.

          If he got in touch with a hit man asking for you to be killed do you think that should be illegal? Or would you want to wait until the hit-man has a gun to your head?

          After all, by your concept of thought crime, having such a discussion with a hit-man would be thought crime, not real crime.

          You probably want to re-read 1984. Thought crime is the crime of THINKING things contrary to the

          • He did do something.

            Okay.

            After all, by your concept of thought crime

            Did you read my comment? "(unless they were threatening to do something and those threats were very likely to be carried out)."

            But I do have a problem with imprisoning them if it's not damn likely that they were going to carry out the supposed plan.

      • Re:Thought Crime (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday May 04, 2012 @04:34PM (#39896329) Journal

        With terrorists, it's not such a good idea to wait until they've actually committed the physical crime. That tends to cost a lot of lives.

        There are steps in between thinking about something and doing it. For example, I could write a description of the orbital corrections required how to fly an asteroid into London during the Olympics. I could hate the Olympics enough to want to do it. Unfortunately, since I lack a space program, I can't actually do it. Arresting me for doing it would make no sense. On the other hand, if I'm threatening to set off a car bomb and I'm sitting at home with a van full of fertiliser and home-made detonators, the security services would be negligent if I were allowed to go for a drive.

        • There are steps in between thinking about something and doing it.

          Yes, and he took some of them. Thus making it more than a "thought crime".

        • the security services would be negligent if I were allowed to go for a drive.

          Well, I don't know where you're from, buddy, but here in teh Good 'ol U. S. of A® we have a little thing known as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. You can have my van full of fertilizer wired for detonation when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

          Note to NSA/DHS/FBI, et al.: This is what's known as a protest comment. The comment should not be taken literally. I do not own a van, flush my fertilizer nearly as soon as it is constituted, and the only thing I am aware of in my life that detona

      • by Jonner (189691)

        You can't talk about "actually committed the phyical crime" without defining the crime. There could be a law that makes it a crime to stuff a frozen chicken up one's jumper, something much more observable than what goes on inside someone's head. AFAICT from TFA, all this guy did was communicate with "an alleged contact in al-Qaeda" and express willingness to become part of an "active terrorist unit." If that's enough to make him a terrorist, a woman saying "I'm going to kill my husband" could be convicted o

        • You can't talk about "actually committed the phyical crime" without defining the crime. There could be a law that makes it a crime to stuff a frozen chicken up one's jumper, something much more observable than what goes on inside someone's head.

          And there could be a law that makes it a crime to engage in email correspondence with people you know to be in terrorist organisations, saying you are wanting to do a terrorist act. Which is equally observable.

          a woman saying "I'm going to kill my husband" could be convicted of attempted murder.

          Women who've tried to make arrangements with others to carry out the murder of their husbands have indeed been prosecuted.

          In all these cases it's a step beyond thought crime, to early action. One can't wait for later action when people would die.

    • by slew (2918) on Friday May 04, 2012 @04:00PM (#39895893)

      As far as I can tell this guy did not actually do anything. He got 5 years for a thought crime.

      Given this person is a theoretical physicist, perhaps thinking about, but not doing, is sufficient evidence of something? Just a thought ;^)

    • Re:Thought Crime (Score:4, Informative)

      by tomhath (637240) on Friday May 04, 2012 @04:00PM (#39895901)
      He sent threats to the president of France. That a crime most countries would take pretty seriously.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        So give him jail time based on what he did instead of what he might do. There are sane Laws against uttering threats in most countries. I assume france is the same. Considering this is terror-law, he should be happy he was at least charged with something and given a sentance. If this was in the US he might not ever be chrged or released.

        • by tomhath (637240)
          They did exactly that. Threat is 5 years, acting on that threat is life without parole. People are arrested and convicted of that crime in the US on a fairly regular basis.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      FTFY

    • That is not fair, there is no proof that he ever thought about attacking anyone.
      The only evidence I see is that he knew a few Islamic extremists and had some of their literature. So he is guilty by association.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As far as I can tell this guy did not actually do anything.

      Yeah, in the US, at least one overt act is required in addition to talking/email/whatever for crimes of conspiracy to commit foo. Dunno how things are in France, but it sucks.

      He got 5 years for a thought crime.

      Well, no. A thought crime would be based on holding certain opinions. AIUI (I haven't read the emails -- are they available somewhere?) he actually discussed plans for a terrorist attack. It's certainly not something that IMO could be considered criminal in a free country, but it is a small step short of thought crime as such.

      • by tftp (111690)

        he actually discussed plans for a terrorist attack

        You can see such discussions even in some very public threads on Slashdot. One can discuss plans of a terrorist attack to commit it or to defend against it. The distinction can be undetectable until you actually start acting toward one goal or another.

    • Re:Thought Crime (Score:5, Informative)

      by Baloroth (2370816) on Friday May 04, 2012 @04:02PM (#39895939)

      Hardly. Conspiracy and planning to commit a crime is a crime, for good reason. Do we wait for a murderer to shoot someone before we can arrest and charge him? No, and for good reason.

      Thought-crime is quite different from actively communicating willingness to be part of an "active terror unit" (as TFA says).

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        I agree with your post, but just a technical point - a person is not a murderer until they have actually murdered someone. If you arrest the person before they kill someone then attempted murderer is probably more accurate, assuming the planned crime was obvious.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      He didn't go to jail for the thought of 'overthrowing the government
        but for the means he threatened to do it with"

    • Planning a crime is a thought crime?

    • As far as I can tell this guy did not actually do anything. He got 5 years for a thought crime.

      He's a CERN phycicist. That's some serious thinking going on in his head. It's like driving a tank instead of a bike. You must be more careful with a brain like that, everybody knows that.

  • by MRe_nl (306212) on Friday May 04, 2012 @03:54PM (#39895817)

    And Standard Model is His prophet!

  • After his arrest in 2009 police found a large quantity of Islamist literature at his parents' home.

    He obviously must be a terrorist, then.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      one data pooint without context. Well done. Now you can forgo thinking all together.

  • i bet it turned out to be an oversized print of a single copy of the quran. jihad on me for not capitalizing it. so if i find a large quantity of christian literature, should i assume an impending crusade? actually, i probably should.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      If they also had made threats,had the means to carry them out, and was in contact with terrorist christian cells to aid in carrying out your threats? then yes, you should expect that person to carry out a Christian Jihad i.e. crusade

  • if you threaten mayhem, it is a not a "thought crime" to catch you and punish you on that basis

    if you threaten mayhem it is a statement of intent, for which you can, and should, be punished

    for example, if i were to threaten the life of the president, i would get a visit from the secret service, and i should get such a visit, and i should be punished

    if i call my girlfriend and tell her i am going to kill her, she should call the police, and the police should visit me, and they should visit me, and i should be punished

    this is not rocket science here folks. if you make a statement of intent to do bodily harm, it is going to be taken seriously, and it should be taken seriously

    now mod me troll and go back to being flabbergasted at a simple commonplace and normal legal convention

    • for example, if i were to threaten the life of the president, i would get a visit from the secret service, and i should get such a visit, and i should be punished

      You'd probably get a visit but you should NOT be punished.

      In this instance the jail time comes because he went beyond stupid threats into contacting someone else about details that might bring threats to fruition. A much grayer area than mere threats...

    • if you threaten mayhem, it is a not a "thought crime" to catch you and punish you on that basis

      The likelihood of them carrying out the threat must also be taken into account. For instance, we can't punish people who were simply emotional and/or joking and had no intent to carry out the threat anyway.

      • go ahead and threaten to kill someone. then later say you were just being emotional or joking. tell us how that works out for you

        you don't joke about making threats of bodily harm. it isn't funny, because the "likelihood" of carrying out a threat is not something that anyone except the threat maker can know

        • go ahead and threaten to kill someone. then later say you were just being emotional or joking. tell us how that works out for you

          Been there, done that. Drunken fight, telling off from police. NFA.

          And fix your shift key, you spacker. All lowercase is just so 1990s.

    • Uttering threats [yourlaws.ca] is a criminal act in Canada.

      • That looks suspiciously short and way too readable to be a full statement of the actual law.

        If it applied every time someone shouts at someone for driving like an asshole or when people get riled up in a pub the entire population would be locked up.

        • by H0p313ss (811249)

          That looks suspiciously short and way too readable to be a full statement of the actual law.

          If it applied every time someone shouts at someone for driving like an asshole or when people get riled up in a pub the entire population would be locked up.

          Fortunately Canadian judges are not elected. So you have to have a pretty good case.

    • by X.25 (255792)

      if you threaten mayhem, it is a not a "thought crime" to catch you and punish you on that basis

      if you threaten mayhem it is a statement of intent, for which you can, and should, be punished

      for example, if i were to threaten the life of the president, i would get a visit from the secret service, and i should get such a visit, and i should be punished

      You obviously have no idea what you're talking about.

      Yes, you would be arrested, but you would not be charged with "terror plot".

      if i call my girlfriend and tell her i am going to kill her, she should call the police, and the police should visit me, and they should visit me, and i should be punished

      You will find that in many countries, police can't do much, except bring the person who threatens in, talk to him/her, then release him/her. Court could try to prohibit that person from approaching/contacting you, but that is all pointless if person is planning to kill you.

      Once that person kills you, then the police can actually do something. Paradoxal, but that's how it is.

      this is not rocket science here folks. if you make a statement of intent to do bodily harm, it is going to be taken seriously, and it should be taken seriously

      if you

      • "Once that person kills you, then the police can actually do something. Paradoxal, but that's how it is."

        This is acceptable to you?

  • The ability tear this universe another black hole. I just shudder to think.
  • The penalty for this very serious crime is unbelievably lenient. The muslims of France who would wish her ill, must be pissing themselves laughing now.

  • Well now he has 5 years to let his back heal without too much else to worry about.

  • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Friday May 04, 2012 @05:18PM (#39896807)

    What ever happened to old fashioned spycraft? You know who he is, put him under surveillance, monitor his emails/phone/travel/visitors, he's in contact with al Qaeda, let him run with it. If he is directed to meet any local AQ contacts, bam, new surveillance targets. If he organises an actual attack, you intercept and now you have him and possibly a whole local cell, and not just for writing a few stupid emails. Hell, if nothing happens, then arrest him, wave terrorism charges at him, but only to turn him and send him out to work for you; give him a better story to lure out AQ, say he has access to radioactive material for a dirty bomb, but needs explosives and a bomb maker...

    • Another bad guy caught with another headline to make politicians and managers look good by playing the numbers game. Why delay another stat at great expense and lost political points when you can get results TODAY? Besides, enemies give you more purpose why would you want really to eliminate them completely?

      Run the system like a business, short term gains at low cost and with high volume. Why invest in long term things that will benefit the people who get your job afterwards? If you don't perform as well

  • by euxneks (516538) on Friday May 04, 2012 @06:10PM (#39897351)

    The security services uncovered a series of email exchanges between Hicheur and an alleged al-Qaeda member called Mustapha Debchi.

    OK, Alleged. Someone alleged to be part of the Al-Qaeda. Why would that be a crime?

    After his arrest in 2009 police found a large quantity of Islamist literature at his parents' home.

    This is utterly ridiculous! What the fuck? Where is his religious freedom? I'm atheist as fuck, but if this dude had Christian literature it wouldn't have even garnered attention. Fuck everything about this.

  • ...don't associate with people named "Mustapha." Also "Damien", "Boris" and "Rasputin".

    It won't end well.

  • ...I would welcome a 5-year prison sentence for a person who calls himself a physicist while entertaining idiotic superstitions. But this is a matter of incompetence and possibly fraud, not terrorism.

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