Chad court sentences six French aid workers to eight years of hard labour

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Chadian court today sentenced six French aid workers to eight years of hard labour for their role in a plot to kidnap 103 African children and fly them to France. The four men and two women have been in custody since October 25. They were also ordered to pay damages for each of the 103 children totaling the equivalent of US$9 million.

Two others, a Chadian and a Sudenese national, were each sentenced to four years, while two other Chadians were found not guilty.

The six French aid workers just sentenced belong to Zoe's Ark, a French charity, which had arranged for 103 children to be flown out of Chad, in what the charity described as an attempt to rescue them from the humanitarian crisis created as a result of the neighbouring Darfur conflict. However, on Wednesday a Chadian court found the six aid workers guilty of attempting to kidnap the children. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had earlier revealed that many of the children involved were not orphans.

On November 4, seven associates of the aid workers were set free, having been exonerated of any wrongdoing in the affair.

Due to a 1976 agreement between France and Chad regarding judicial affairs, France has indicated it will press for the transfer of its nationals back to France to serve out their time in a French prison. "France, after obtaining the agreement of the members of Zoe's Ark, and examining the implementation of the judicial co-operation accord between France and Chad, in particular article 29, will ask the Chadian authorities for the transfer of the prisoners to France," said Pascale Andreani, spokesperson for the French foreign ministry.