Saturday, December 29, 2007

Chad Sends French Convicts Home After Convictions For Child Trafficking

Chad sends French convicts home

Six French aid workers jailed in Chad on child trafficking charges will be repatriated on Friday, a Chadian official says.

The six were sentenced to eight years' hard labour in Chad on Wednesday for attempting to kidnap 103 children.

French Justice Minister Rachida Dati had requested that the six Zoe's Ark charity workers serve their sentences in France under a 1976 accord.

The aid workers have 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.

The Chadian official who announced the imminent repatriation on Friday spoke on condition of anonymity.

Chad's Justice Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke told reporters: "I have responded favourably to the transfer request from France this morning".

The case 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 Idris Deby's government from being overthrown by rebels on a number of occasions.

Ms Dati said she had formally asked Chad for the four men and two women 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.

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:
Published: 2007/12/28 09:38:17 GMT

No comments: