Accused Of Kidnappings In Chad
Chad authorities released three
Spanish flight crew members and a Belgian pilot detained in a
suspected plot by a charity hoping to fly African children to
Europe, according to the International Herald Tribune.
Also released Sunday November 4, were three French journalists
and the flight crew members. The Spaniards were contracted by
French organization Zoë's Ark to fly the African youngsters to
France. The pilot, a Belgian, was also hired by the French charity
had flown a plane carrying some of the children around Chad. The
group was expected to be back in Europe on Friday, November 9.
A Chadian lawyer representing the four said they were charged
with complicity in an alleged kidnapping plot but were released at
the direction of a judge.
Six Zoë's Ark workers remain in custody in Chad, and are
charged with attempting to kidnap 103 children. If convicted they
could spend 20-years in prison.
Spain hailed the release of its citizens who were helped by
French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the release.
"I want to take the opportunity to express from here our
sincerest gratitude to the government of Chad and the judicial
authorities for this decision," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa
Fernandez de la Vega said.
A total of 17 Europeans were arrested after the flight was
stopped on Oct. 25 from flying the children to Europe. The
children, from Sudan's Darfur region, were intended to be placed
with host families. Zoe's Ark said that its mission was
humanitarian in nature and that the children were thought to be
France's Foreign Ministry and others have cast doubt on the
claim that the children were orphans as Sudan's western Darfur
region has been embroiled in fighting since 2003, and this has
forced thousands to flee to Chad. The children reported living with
at least one adult they considered a parent, according to aid
The arrests have also triggered an investigation into the
activities of the aid group in Paris, who searched media agency
Capa reporter Marc Garmirian filmed the group for weeks leading
up to their arrest. Authorities are looking into charges of illegal
adoption and fraud against the aid group.
The arrests come at a sensitive time in Chad's relations with
Europe. The European Union is planning to deploy a peacekeeping
force in Chad and Central African Republic with French soldiers.
The 3,000 soldier force is intended to help refugees along the two
nations' borders with Darfur.