A scientist working at the giant European CERN atom smasher laboratory has been held on suspicion of being linked to al-Qaida, it emerged today.
The physicist was one of more than 7,000 working at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research whose massive underground particle accelerator spans the French and Swiss borders.
CERN said he was assigned to analysis projects under contract with an outside institute.
The man had no contact with anything that could be used for terrorism, said the organisation.
The LHCb experiment where he worked is the smallest of a series of installations along the 17-mile circular tunnel under the borders.
The projects are aimed at making discoveries about the makeup of matter when the Large Hadron Collider – the world largest atom smasher – starts collecting data later this year or early next year.
LHCb is an experiment set up to explore what happened after the Big Bang that allowed matter to survive and build the universe we inhabit today.
The Big Bang was a vast explosion that scientists theorise was the beginning of the universe 14 billion years ago.
The European laboratory has been working for years to build the collider.
The man, who has not been named, was arrested yesterday in the eastern French city of Vienne accused of links to terrorist organisations in Algeria.
The case is being handled by the anti-terrorist section of the Paris prosecutor’s office.
Many of the scientists at the laboratory, whether or not they are employees of the organisation or of other institutes around the world, live in France, and about half the operation is on French territory.
The man has been working on analysis projects with the LHCb experiment at CERN since 2003.
“None of our research has potential for military application, and all our results are published openly in the public domain,” the organisation said in a statement.