Chad court jails Zoe’s Ark aid workers eight years each in hard labour

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Six French aid workers, whose attempt to fly out more than 100 children from Chad last October triggered a huge international outcry, were on Wednesday jailed for eight years each in hard labour.

The sentence was pronounced on the aid workers belonging to Zoe’s Ark on the fourth day of the trial in the Chadian capital, N’djamena, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) news monitored in Accra.

It said a Chadian and a Sudanese national who were also on trial were each sentenced to four years in prison while two other Chadians were acquitted.

BBC said the court found the French nationals guilty of the “attempted kidnap of children, breaching their civil rights” and “absconding without payment” of bills accrued in their attempt to fly the children out of the eastern Chad town of Abeche.

The head of Zoe’s Ark, Eric Breteau, and the Sudanese national, Souleimane Ibrahim Adam, were found guilty of the further charge of using forged documents.

When they were arrested in October, they claimed they were evacuating refugee children orphaned by the conflict in Darfur so they could be cared for by families in Europe.

However, most of the children were found to be from Chad, which borders Darfur, and with parents who were still alive.

The French government was quoted as saying it will ask the Chadian government to return the aid workers to France.

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