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French aid workers involved in Chad 'Darfur orphans' case return to France

[JURIST] Six French aid workers were flown back to France Friday after they were sentenced to eight years of hard labor [JURIST report] by a Chadian court earlier in the week for attempting to kidnap 103 African children. The workers, affiliated with the Zoe's Ark [advocacy website] charity, were returned a day after the French Foreign Ministry formally requested [press release, in French; JURIST report] that Chadian authorities transfer them to a French prison. The request was made under the 1976 France-Chad Agreement on Judicial Matters [PDF text], which allows for transfer of trials and sentences between the nations. The French judicial system does not include hard labor sentences so the aid workers will likely serve their sentences in French prison.

The aid workers claimed that they were attempting to airlift orphaned children [JURIST news archive] from the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur to safety in Europe, but investigations revealed that most of the children were not actually orphans. Last month, Chad released three Spanish air crew and a Belgian pilot [JURIST report] held in Chad in connection with the attempted airlift. Three Chadians and one Sudanese national are also facing trial in Chad for complicity in kidnapping and fraud. AP has more.

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