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France charges aid worker in Chad 'Darfur orphans' case

[JURIST] An aid worker was charged in a French court Wednesday with conspiring to allow illegal residents into the country in connection with an aborted airlift of 103 supposed Darfur [JURIST news archive] orphans from Chad to France last year. The indictment comes just two weeks after Alain Peligat and five other workers with French charity Zoe's Ark [advocacy website, in French] were sentenced in Chad to eight years of hard labor [JURIST report] for their role in the attempted airlift. Peligat could face up to 10 years in prison and up to a 750,000 Euro ($1 million) fine if convicted in the French proceeding. The Chadian government returned the workers to France [JURIST report] in late December after a formal request from the French Foreign Ministry under the 1976 France-Chad Agreement on Judicial Matters [PDF text]. A French court will decide Monday how the workers will serve their sentences since France has no hard-labor sanctions. Two of the other aid workers are considered witnesses in the case and have not been charged in French courts, and a judge will consider charging the remaining three on Thursday. AFP has more. Le Monde has local coverage, in French.

The aid workers said that they were attempting to airlift orphaned children [JURIST news archive; Zoe's Arch press release, DOC] from the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur to safety in Europe, but investigations revealed that most of the children were not actually orphans. In November, Chad released three Spanish air crew and a Belgian pilot [JURIST report] held in Chad in connection with the attempted airlift. Four Chadian nationals are also facing trial [JURIST report] in Chad for complicity in kidnapping and fraud.

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