European pilot, air crew released in Chad 'Darfur orphans' airlift case

[JURIST] Three Spanish air crew and a Belgian pilot held in Chad in connection with a French charity's attempt to airlift 103 children [JURIST news archive] alleged to be Darfur orphans were released Friday. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos [official profile] praised Chadian officials, including President Idriss Deby [IRIN news profile], for their smooth handling of the situation and said that Spain has offered to pay for the education of the 103 children, as a gesture of good will. AFP has more.

Earlier this week, Chadian authorities freed [JURIST report] seven Europeans - three French journalists and four Spanish flight attendants after French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile] flew to Chad Sunday to personally intervene with the Chadian government over its handling of the case. Six Europeans still remain in Chadian custody. Four Chadian nationals also face criminal charges [JURIST report] over their alleged involvement in the attempted airlift for the French charity Zoe's Ark [advocacy website, in French; BBC backgrounder]. The four defendants - the mayor, secretary-general, deputy governor, and neighborhood chief of the Chadian border town of Tine - appeared in court Wednesday on charges of fraud and conspiring to kidnap minors. If convicted, they could face extended prison time with hard labor.

 

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