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French charity workers to stand trial in Chad for allegedly kidnapping 103 children

[JURIST] The Chad Supreme Court ruled Friday that a group of European citizens connected to the attempt by French charity Zoe's Arc [advocacy website, in French] to fly 103 children believed to be orphans [ZA backgrounder, in French] from the embattled Darfur region of Sudan [JURIST news archives] to France will be transferred to stand trial in the capital of N'Djamena. Six French nationals have been charged with kidnapping [JURIST report] and face five to 20 years in prison if convicted. Three French journalists and a seven-person Barcelona-based flight crew have also been charged with complicity in the alleged kidnapping.

Two UN agencies and the Red Cross have determined [press release] that the children were actually not orphans, as originally reported by Zoe's Arc. According to UNICEF [advocacy website], 91 children have said they had been living with their family, consisting of at least one adult they considered to be their close relative. Most of the children, aged one to 10, came from villages in Chad [JURIST news archive] near the Sudan border. Some parents have said they were persuaded by foreigners to give up their children in return for promised education in nearby towns. The botched flyout occurred just before the European Union planned to deploy a 4,000-man peacekeeping force [IHT report] in Chad and the Central African Republic [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to aid in the refugee crisis created by the Darfur conflict. Reuters has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

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