Chad denies bail to French charity workers
15 November 2007, NDJAMENA - A judge in Chad denied bail Wednesday to six French charity workers at the centre of an alleged child abduction case that sparked violent anti-French protests in the capital Ndjamena.
15 November 2007
NDJAMENA - A judge in Chad denied bail Wednesday to six French charity workers at the centre of an alleged child abduction case that sparked violent anti-French protests in the capital Ndjamena.
The judge ruled that the defendants, along with three Chadians charged in the same case, should remain in custody. A lawyer for the six French said he would appeal the decision.
"In view of the seriousness of the charges, allowing the accused to go free on bail would carry a public order risk and could hamper the truth coming out," the judge said.
The hearing in Ndjamena coincided with a violent protest by several hundred demonstrators who chanted anti-French slogans and threw stones at cars carrying Westerners.
The protest lasted about two hours, before it was broken up by police using tear gas.
The Chadian government condemned the "irresponsible attitude" of the protestors, urging them to end their demonstration immediately, and called on the security services to ensure the safety of foreigners in Chad.
The French embassy issued a warning to French citizens in Ndjamena, telling them to exercise special caution and to stick to the centre of the city.
Public anger in Chad has flared over what many see as French efforts to intervene in the case of the six charity workers arrested over an attempt to fly 103 children to France.
The charity Zoe's Ark said the children were orphans from neighbouring Sudan's war-torn Darfur region who it planned to place in foster care with families in Europe.
But Chad says the group did not have permission to take the children out of the country, and aid agencies who have since cared for the children said that most of the youngsters are Chadian and have at least one living parent.
The charity workers face kidnapping charges which could result in lengthy prison sentences with hard labour. Four Chadians -- one of whom did not apply for bail -- are charged with complicity.
The demonstrators who took to the streets Wednesday, some of them on motorbikes, protested in front of the French embassy -- heavily guarded by Chadian police -- as well as the French school in Ndjamena.
Cars carrying westerners were stoned as the crowd chanted slogans denouncing French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"Slavery is over," the protesters shouted.
Originally 17 Europeans were arrested in the case, but 11 have been released from custody, including three French journalists and four female Spanish flight attendants who were released when Sarkozy made a lightning trip to Chad on November 4.
The charges against them remain.
The lawyer representing the charity workers, Jean-Bernard Padare, suggested the protests may have been a factor in the judge's decision to deny bail.
"The fact that the ruling coincided with the demonstrations is troubling," he said.
Another defence lawyer, Gilbert Collard, told French news channel LCI that they would appeal the decision.
Chad's Justice Minister Albert Padacke argued that the protests simply reflected popular support for the case to be tried in Chad.
"There is no risk that judgement will be handed down elsewhere. It will be done in Chad," he said.
Subject: French news