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Mohamed Nour, managing director of the low-cost airline at the time, is the first person to be charged after years of investigations into the causes of the accident.

After long refusing French judicial summons, Nour agreed to appear before a judge for questioning in September, when he was named an official witness in the case.

But in December the judge notified Nour that he would be charged with involuntary manslaughter, the legal source said, confirming a report in Le Parisien newspaper.

An expert report from 2009 found that the pilots aboard were inadequately trained and suffering from fatigue due to their intense working hours in the weeks leading up to the accident.

France's aviation authority, the BEA, also determined that the pilot had suffered "spatial disorientation" before the crash, meaning he was unable to properly assess the plane's speed or altitude.

That led prosecutors to drop the case in 2016, saying a trial was unnecessary as the pilots were among the dead. The move infuriated many victims' families, who in 2019 secured a reopening of the investigation with a Paris appeals court.

"Over 18 years of proceedings, we have often asked the judiciary to investigate the airline's directors," Isabelle Manson, president of a victims' association, told AFP.

She welcomed the decision to charge Nour, saying the judge now overseeing the inquiry "is not afraid to press ahead."

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