I was unaware of the following story, which was brought to my attention by Monica Pepe-Altarelli yesterday. Since I totally agree that nobody should be detained without proof of guilt for long periods of time, and since we are talking of a physicist, I am glad to broadcast the story here.

A colleague from LHCb, Adlène Hicheur, of French-Algerian origin, was arrested on 8 October 2009 on suspicion of having contacts with a member of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, through internet forums. After being detained for several days for questioning, Adlène was placed under formal investigation for suspected “conspiracy with a terrorist organization”. Since then, he has been kept in jail in Fresnes, near Paris, under “provisional detention”, although no proven material facts appear to have been produced against him to justify his detention in jail for more than 18 months.

The only incriminating information was in the form of e-mail messages and other communications obtained at the time f Adlène's arrest; there has been nothing fresh since that time.

It should be the concern of any of us who love freedom that nowadays in France, a country which has "liberté" among the three words at the root of its republican nature, a person can be arrested and kept in jail under “provisional detention” and without any trial for such a long time.

Adlène's colleagues are worried for him and his health. Even in the case that he is publically demonstrated to be innocent of all charges, his scientific career is likely to be destroyed by the length and  arbitrariness of the procedure.  A support committee has been created by them in order to bring Adlene’s case to the attention of the scientific community and help him in any legal way possible. Since he was arrested, Adlène has consistently professed his innocence and has stated that the accusations against him are completely false.

Most recently, the matter has also been discussed in Physics World, in a piece by Michael Dittmar.