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'Darfur orphans' airlift trial begins in Chad

[JURIST] Six French nationals connected 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] to Europe went on trial in Chad Friday, accused of kidnapping, fraud, and forgery. Zoe's Ark founder Eric Breteau said in a written statement to the BBC that Zoe's Ark workers believed the children to be orphans from Darfur and that any confusion was the fault of intermediaries who brought the children to him. Lawyers for the six requested that Chad drop the charges, arguing that the charity workers were trying to evacuate the children from a dangerous situation as allowed under the Geneva Convention.

Last month, Chad released three Spanish air crew and a Belgian pilot [JURIST report] held in Chad in connection with the attempted airlift. Chadian authorities also freed seven Europeans [JURIST report] in early November, including three French journalists, after French President Nicolas Sarkozy personally intervened on their behalf. Three Chadians and one Sudanese national are also facing trial in Chad for complicity in kidnapping and fraud. AP has more.

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