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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 12-26-2007, 12:14 PM Thread Starter
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French aid workers get hard labour

French aid workers get hard labour
Al Jazeera

The workers blame local intermediaries for misleading them over the identity of the children

A court in Chad has sentenced six French aid workers to eight years of forced labour after finding them guilty of trying to kidnap 103 children from the African country.

The court in the capital, N'Djamena, handed down its sentence on the fourth day of the trial of six members of the French humanitarian group Zoe's Ark.

A Chadian and a Sudanese also on trial were given four years in prison and two other Chadians were acquitted.

The six were arrested in October for trying to fly the children, aged one to 10, to Europe.

The six denied the charges, saying they were on a humanitarian mission to fly sick and destitute orphans from Sudan's Darfur region for fostering with European families.

They said international law justified the humanitarian operation.

Eric Breteau, Zoe's Ark's leader, told the court: "I maintain what I've said since the start of this affair ... our intention was to fetch orphans from Darfur."

"Feel the abyss"

Defence lawyers had accused the Chadian court of rushing through the trial under political pressure from Paris.

They also said the accused were depressed.

"They feel the abyss just a few centimetres away, they are lost, completely lost," he said.

Chad's government, which had faced heavy popular pressure to punish the Zoe's Ark members with an exemplary sentence said they had no authorisation to take the infants out of the country.

Prosecutors said the group, led by Breteau and Emilie Lelouch, duped parents in eastern Chad into handing over their children with promises of schooling.

State lawyer Philippe Houssine said the sentences requested by the prosecution were justified because Breteau and Lelouch had shown no remorse.

"On the contrary, he (Breteau) displays an arrogant, insolent attitude, which means this is a person who is ready to do it again if asked," he told reporters.

The prosecutor requested civil damages to be awarded for each of the 103 children in the case -- 40 million CFA francs ($88,000) each, totalling 4.12 billion CFA francs ($9 million) in all.

'Diplomatic deal'

There is widespread expectation that a diplomatic deal between Paris and N'Djamena could soon return the six accused to France, either through bilateral judicial accords or a pardon granted by Idriss Deby, the Chadian president.

France is an ally of Deby and has a military contingent stationed in the landlocked former French colony.

French troops have been supporting Deby's forces against eastern rebels and will provide the bulk of a European Union peacekeeping force due to be deployed in east Chad in January.

Janine Lelouch, mother of Emilie Lelouch, told France's LCI television: "I think we have to hope that they're transferred quickly to France because they can't stand it much longer."

The French have blamed their local intermediaries for misleading them over the identity of the children, who Chadian and UN officials said were mostly not orphans and came from villages in Chad on its eastern border with Darfur.
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 12-28-2007, 12:11 PM
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French convicts flown out of Chad
Six French aid workers who were jailed in Chad on child trafficking charges have flown out of the capital N'Djamena, bound for France. The six were sentenced to eight years' hard labour in Chad on Wednesday for attempting to kidnap 103 children.
The four men and two women from the French charity Zoe's Ark boarded a Boeing airliner of the Chadian carrier Toumai Air Tchad, Reuters reported.
France had requested that the six serve their sentences in France.
The aid workers insisted they were trying to evacuate orphans from Darfur.
However, most of the children were found to be from Chad, which borders the war-torn western Sudanese region, and had parents who were still alive.

Chad's Justice Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke told reporters on Friday: "I have responded favourably to the transfer request from France this morning".
The transfer was made possible by a 1976 bilateral co-operation accord.
The aid workers' actions sparked outrage in the former French colony in central Africa.
France has considerable leverage over Chad, BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says, with military support from Paris having saved President Idriss Deby's government from being overthrown by rebels on a number of occasions.
French Justice Minister Rachida Dati said she had formally asked Chad for the six aid workers to be transferred to serve their prison sentences in their native country.
But legal proceedings would be required in France to amend the sentences, because the country has no punishment of hard labour.
The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby in Paris says it is likely that once the six arrive home, the French justice system will commute or reduce their sentences.
But it is unclear whether they will still have to pay a $9m (£4.5m) fine imposed by a Chadian judge and whether they will face lawsuits lodged by families who had offered to foster the children in Europe, our correspondent says.
Controversial operation
French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke by phone with President Deby on Thursday night about preparations for transferring the six aid workers, President Sarkozy's office said.
The six were arrested in October as they tried to fly the children to France.
Zoe's Ark insisted tribal leaders in Sudan had told them all the children were orphans from Darfur. It said it wanted to save the children's lives and was carrying out a medical evacuation - not an adoption operation.
In statements to police, the families said they had not been told their children were about to be taken abroad.
They claimed that the aid workers misled them into believing the youngsters - aged one to 10 - would be offered temporary local school places.
In November seven Europeans arrested with the six Zoe's Ark workers flew home, accompanied by President Sarkozy.

Story from BBC NEWS:
BBC NEWS | Africa | French convicts flown out of Chad
Do we have something like the French have, or do our people have to go through the Midnight Express?
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 12-28-2007, 01:43 PM
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What would be their motive for kidnapping 103 starvin marvins? Did they intend to sell them to Bradjolina?

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