France prosecutors recommend prison time for 'Darfur orphans' airlift workers

[JURIST] French prosecutors Monday urged a criminal court in Creteil, a suburb of Paris, to convert the sentences of six French aid workers convicted and sentenced in Chad for their role in the attempted airlift [JURIST report] of 103 supposed Darfur [JURIST news archive] orphans to France from eight years of hard labor [JURIST report] to eight years in prison. The workers, affiliated with French charity Zoe's Ark, were sentenced in Chad [JURIST report] in December. The Chadian government returned the workers to France [JURIST report] in late December 2007 after a formal request from the French Foreign Ministry under the 1976 France-Chad Agreement on Judicial Matters [PDF text]. The court must now decide how the workers will serve their sentences since France has no hard-labor sanctions. The court said Monday it will render a decision regarding the sentencing on January 28.

The six aid workers have said 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 later revealed that most of the children were not actually orphans. Last week, an aid worker was charged [JURIST report] in French court with conspiring to allow illegal residents into the country in connection with the aborted airlift. AFP has more.

 

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