A French physicist with the European atomic research center near Geneva was charged with terrorism by a Paris judge last night after investigators said that he offered to work with the North African branch of al-Qaeda.

Adlène Hicheur, 32, who is of Algerian origin, was arrested last week with his younger brother after intelligence agents intercepted his alleged internet contacts with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The physicist, who works at the giant atomic collider at CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research), which straddles Swiss and French territory, told the Islamic group that he was interested in committing an attack but had not begun any material preparation, according to police sources. He had acknowledged contacting the militant organization, they said.

Residents in the suspect’s home town of Vienne, in eastern France, said that his success had made him a role model for young Muslims. “They are good boys,” said one neighbor of the suspect and his brother. “They are from a family of six children and from a very moderate Muslim family which is seen as a model of integration.”

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