'Darfur orphans' airlift charity workers facing criminal charges in Chad

[JURIST] A Chadian judge has determined that 10 defendants will stand trial in criminal court in connection with the abortive effort by French charity Zoe's Ark [advocacy website, in French; BBC backgrounder] to airlift so-called "Darfur orphans" out of Chad [JURIST news archive], a lawyer told AFP Monday. The investigative judge said that six French Zoe's Ark workers should be tried in criminal court on kidnapping, fraud, and forgery charges, and that three Chadians and one Sudanese national will face trial for complicity in kidnapping and fraud. Charges were dropped against another suspects, including several French journalists, the Spanish crew and Belgian pilot of the plane to be used during the airlift, and a local Chadian official from the border town of Tine. If convicted, the defendants could face between five to 20 years of hard labor.

The announcement of charges came two days after the French charity workers went on hunger strike [JURIST report] in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena to protest the way the Chadian legal probe into their case has been conducted. A lawyer for the group told AFP that the workers felt they had been abandoned by the French government; last month, French President Nicholas Sarkozy flew to Chad and brought out a number of freed journalists and flight crew [JURIST report] allegedly involved in the airlift. AFP has more.



 

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