(Jan. 2, 2008) Six French aid workers from the organization Zoé's Ark have been convicted of attempting to kidnap more than one hundred children in Chad. The court in N'djamena, Chad's capital, sentenced them to eight years in prison with hard labor and ordered them to pay US$8 million in compensation. They were also found guilty of breaching the children's civil rights and of fraud in connection with their actions in the town of Abeche in October 2007. Two African individuals, one from Chad and one from Sudan, were each sentenced to four years in prison in connection with the case; two other Chadian defendants were acquitted, and charges against 12 other suspects were dismissed. The head of the organization and the Sudanese defendant were also convicted on a charge of using forged documents.
In rendering this decision, the court rejected the aid workers' claim that they were taking the children to evacuate them from the region and that the children were orphaned by the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. International agencies that investigated the case had concluded that the children were Chadian. The Government of France is now requesting that the convicted French citizens be permitted to serve their sentences in France. ( Chad Kidnappers Convicted, AFROL N EWS, Dec. 27, 2007, available at http://www.afrol.com/articles/27607.)