Chad vows to try European kidnap suspects

7th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

7 November 2007, NDJAMENA (AFP) - President Idriss Deby Itno insisted Tuesday that French charity workers accused of trying to abduct 103 children would be judged in Chad, even as French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to try and bring them home.

7 November 2007

NDJAMENA (AFP) - President Idriss Deby Itno insisted Tuesday that French charity workers accused of trying to abduct 103 children would be judged in Chad, even as French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to try and bring them home.

"It is out of the question for the Chadian judiciary to abandon the case. On the contrary, the Chadian judiciary will get to the bottom" of the affair, Deby told reporters accompanying a charity mission from the United Arab Emirates.

"Public opinion is very sensitive to this issue, and I believe it is Chadian laws that will apply in this situation," he said, apparently at odds with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"Justice will be done here in Chad," Deby said.

Sarkozy vowed Tuesday to return to Chad to bring home the charity workers facing trial, drawing a terse response from Chad's justice minister.

"I will go and bring back those who stayed behind, regardless of what they have done," said Sarkozy during a visit to Brittany. "The role of the head of state is to take responsibility for all of the French people."

Chad's Justice Minister Albert Pahimi responded "it's not President Sarkozy who will decide"  and called his statement "unfortunate in the current context."

"This statement seems to sideline the justice system. That may be possible in France, but unfortunately not in Chad," he added.

Six members of the French charity Zoe's Ark face trial here on charges of attempting to kidnap 103 children and airlift them to France on October 25. Three Spanish crew members and one Belgian pilot are accused of complicity.

The French charity said it was saving orphans from war in Darfur but UN and local aid workers have since said the children may not be orphans and many are from Chad.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Spanish air charter Girjet said the three Spanish crew had been misled by the French charity.

Meanwhile, several humanitarian agencies in Chad, which borders Sudan's volatile Darfur region, said the government was hampering their work following the Zoe's Ark affair.

"It is natural that the authorities, given the circumstances ... would want to know what (the agencies) are doing and where," said Serge Male, head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Chad.

"But they have to understand that they asked us to come here to help them," he said.

Local aid workers who spoke to AFP Monday in the eastern town of Abeche, where the children are being kept in an orphanage pending identification of their families, named villages close to the border with Sudan as the home of many of the children.

Foreign Minister Ahmat Allam-mi said that while most of the children are Chadians, there are reportedly some Sudanese among them.

"Indications are that the overwhelming majority, if not all, are Chadians. But there could be some Sudanese among them, according to what is being said," the minister told AFP.

Sarkozy visited Chad on Sunday and flew back to Paris with three French journalists and four Spanish flight attendants who had been detained in the affair after a judge ordered their release.

Asked if he had agreed with Sarkozy that the French workers would be tried here, Deby said: "It is not a matter of agreeing or not agreeing. It is simply a matter of respecting the sovereignty and judiciary of a state."

The Chadian Deby said he discussed rehabilitating the children with a team from the "Dubai Cares" charity led by the UAE ambassador to Chad and Sudan, Essa al-Noaimi.

The team arrived Monday with aid and met officials about the possibility of funding school facilities in the areas children they come from in order to help both them and their communities.

Deby said the UAE was the first country to offer assistance and the discussions dealt with extending aid to other Chadian children as well as those of Sudanese refugees.

AFP

Subject: French news

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