Solidarity with Adlène Hicheur


 Declan Butler reports in Nature, ‘ Particle physicist Adlène Hicheur has not been able to attend scientific meetings since July, when he was mysteriously deported from Brazil and placed under house arrest in the small town of Vienne, in southeastern France. So, in a remarkable show of solidarity, his colleagues working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have brought a workshop to him. This morning, researchers from the LHCb experiment at Europe’s particle-physics laboratory CERN, near Geneva in Switzerland, jumped into shared cars and drove across the French border for the 2-hour journey to Vienne. Around 30 researchers are there: some took trains or flights to reach the town, and another 15 researchers, including some in China, the United States and Brazil, are giving talks by video link-ups . . . The Vienne workshop also serves as a poignant farewell to Hicheur, says Vagnoni. That is because Hicheur has found a way to have his house arrest lifted — but it requires that he move to Algeria, where it will be very difficult for him to establish a high-energy physics group. Hicheur is Franco-Algerian, and in October, he took the drastic step of informing the French government that he would renounce his French nationality, and asking to be allowed to leave the country. French authorities have agreed, provided that they are given clear details of how Hicheur intends to leave and that police escort him to the airport.’ 13 December 2016 click here.


Soon after the end of Ramadan, at a time when Muslim families celebrate the end of a month of fasting, Brazilian police conducted a raid on the home of a dual nationality French-Algerian scientist in Rio,  just after he had finished a video conference on his specialisation in particle physics, the phenomenon of Meson decay. The same day, 15th July 2016, he was driven to the airport and deported to France, where he remains subject to a control order.

This lack of attention on the plight of the Algerian Muslim scientist Adlène Hicheur is a frequent feature in the so-called ‘War on Terror’,  where due process of law is waived aside when it comes to dealing with any ‘suspect’ Muslims – repressive measures become the first recourse.  Muslim advocacy and human rights bodies have a responsibility to ensure the matter is not forgotten, so that  a miscarriage of justice and an illegal extradition can be put right, with French authorities brought to account.


As documented by Shoban Saxena and Florence Costa in, ‘In 2009, while working at the world famous European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), he [Adlène Hicheur]  was arrested by the French police [2009] and charged with “criminal association with a terrorist group” (Al Qaeda in Maghreb). He spent 30 months in jail. It’s also public knowledge that he was tried for “associating” with an Al Qaeda man in Algeria through emails and web chats for “attacks in France”. Hicheur’s response is well known too: his participation in chats covered many international issues and he never planned any terrorist attack. It’s also not a secret that in May 2012, after 949 days in prison, Hicheur was released.’

With the help of research colleagues, he then found employment at the Brazilian Centre for Physics Research (BCPR) and later at the Federal University of Rio de Janerio. The science journalist Declan Butler writing in Nature on Hicheur (Vol. 357, 15 September 2016)  quotes Ignacio Beidagia, head of BCPR, stating ‘In my opinion, Dr Hicheur was illegally extradited at the request of the French government’.  Declan Butler adds, ‘In an interview with the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, justice minister Alexandre de Moraes said Hicheur had not communicated with terrorist groups, or committee any crime while in Brazil . . . at the airport, Hicheur repeatedly requested that he be sent back to Algeria (the nationality on his Brazilian work visa) or anywhere other than France, fearing that he would be confined under the state-of-emergency laws’.

This was a legitimate fear: since his return Hicheur has been under house arrest, and required to report to police three times a day and cannot leave home between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

While at CERN, Hicheur worked on the Large Hadron Collider ‘Beauty’ project, also known in the particle physics world as LHCb.  He was on a video link with CERN collaborators when the Brazilian police knocked at his door on 15th July.

Declan Butler’s words in Nature should be a rallying call for activists:

. . .  if an intelligent and articulate individual such as Hicheur (a Muslim) with a bevy of support from his scientific colleagues can find himself helpless, what then of the many others with much less capacity to defend themselves? Fairness, freedom, the rule of law and human rights – including the right to a defence – are the basis for a democracy. It is not easy in these times to defend these values, much less for someone convicted in the past of terrorism-related offences, but defend them we must.

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Jamil Sherif