Convicted French charity workers in Chad released

April 1st, 2008 - 8:10 pm ICT by admin  

Paris, April 1 (DPA) French charity workers, convicted in Chad of attempting to kidnap more than 100 African children three months ago, were released after Chad’s President Idriss Deby pardoned them, reports said Tuesday. Five members of the charity l’Arche de Zoe (Zoe’s Ark) left prison Monday evening, hours after being pardoned.

A sixth woman, who was hospitalised during her prison stay, remained in hospital.

The charity workers were sentenced to eight years of forced labour and compensation payments to the victims’ families worth about 6 million euros ($9.4 million) by the African state last December.

They had attempted to fly alleged orphans from Darfur illegally to France. Most of the children, however, were from Chad and not orphaned.

The aid workers were allowed to serve their term, which was converted into a prison sentence, in France.

It remained unclear whether the compensation payments, a precondition for a pardon according to Deby, had been paid.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told the France Inter radio station that the government did not make any payments.

However, at least four of the released volunteers may face prison again. Independent of Chad’s verdict, French justice began proceedings on charges of adoption fraud. The accused face sentences of up to ten years as well as penalties of 750,000 euros.

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