A physicist at the facility that houses the world's largest particle collider in Switzerland has been arrested on suspicion of links to terrorism, according to officials.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known by the French acronym CERN, said French officials arrested the man on Thursday in south-east France for suspected al-Qaeda links.
The Large Hadron Collider, which lies underground near the Franco-Swiss border, is a powerful particle collider that aims to re-create conditions in the universe not long after the Big Bang.
CERN officials said the man, whose name has not been revealed, was working under contract with an outside institute and said he had no contact with anything that could have been used for terrorism. He had been at CERN since 2003, officials said.
The LHCb experiment where he worked is the smallest of a series of installations along the 27-kilometre circular tunnel that houses the facility.
"None of our research has potential for military application, and all our results are published openly in the public domain," CERN said in a statement Friday.
Collider to resume operations in November
The collider was expected to resume operations in November after a year-long delay because of a problem with some of its electrical connections.
The news that someone with terrorist connections might have worked at the facility is likely to cause concern because of both the high profile of the giant physics experiment and also the technology in use, which has made some members of the public nervous.
Before it started in September 2008, the particle collider drew protests from Europeans worried it would trigger a disaster, with some scenarios suggesting the accelerator would create a black hole that would swallow the Earth.
Physicists and CERN officials dismissed the concerns, with the LHC project leader saying in 2008, "Obviously, the world will not end when the LHC switches on."
The collider is designed, however, to work at high energies. When it relaunches in November, the collider is expected to begin running at 3.5 tera-electron volts (TeV), or 3.5 trillion electron volts. It was built to move particles at twice those energies.
The accelerator is designed to smash subatomic particles into each other at high speeds in order to break them down and allow the discovery of smaller, more fundamental particles.
The prosecutor's office in the Isere region of France said the case has been transferred to the anti-terrorist section of the Paris prosecutor's office.