Sunday, November 4, 2007

Magistrate quizzes Chad accused

Some of the Europeans implicated in an alleged attempt to kidnap children from Chad have appeared before a magistrate in the capital, N'Djamena.
Eight of the 17 accused Europeans and three Chadians were questioned in connection with an alleged attempt to fly 103 children out of Chad.

Six of the accused are members of a charity, Zoe's Ark, which claimed the children were Sudanese orphans.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has ordered a probe into the charity.

An statement from the prime minister's office said the investigation would examine how Zoe's Ark came to work in Chad without the knowledge of the French embassy there.

Mr Fillon said he wanted to know how the group "was able to hide its identity on the ground," according to a letter sent to the French foreign and defence ministries, which will carry out the investigation.

Questionable claims

On Friday, 16 Europeans and four Chadians were flown to N'Djamena from Abeche.

They joined the 17th European, a Belgian pilot who was already being held in an N'Djamena prison.

The group was detained last week in Abeche as they tried to take to France 103 children they claimed were orphans from Sudan's Darfur region.

However, UN aid agencies and the International Red Cross have said 91 of them came from a home with at least one adult considered a parent figure.

Six workers for Zoe's Ark, the French charity behind the flight, were charged with kidnapping on Tuesday and three French journalists and seven Spanish air crew were charged as accomplices.

If they are found guilty, the main accused could face between five and 20 years in prison with hard labour.

On Thursday Chadian President Idriss Deby said he hoped the three journalists and the Spanish flight crew members could be released soon.


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