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French aid workers sentenced to 8 years hard labor in Chad 'Darfur orphans' case

[JURIST] Six French aid workers were sentenced to eight years of hard labor Wednesday after being convicted in a Chadian court for attempting to kidnap 103 African children [JURIST report]. The six, affiliated with the Zoe's Ark [advocacy website] charity, 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. The case has sparked protests across Chad, and complicated international aid efforts in the region. Chad and France have a bilateral agreement which could allow for the six convicted workers to be transferred to France to serve sentences there. The French Foreign Ministry has said it will ask the Chadian authorities to transfer the workers.

Last month, Chad released three Spanish air crew and a Belgian pilot [JURIST report] held in Chad in connection with the attempted airlift. Chadian authorities also freed seven Europeans [JURIST report] in early November, including three French journalists, after French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website] personally intervened on their behalf. 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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