Zoe's Ark: Chad's president raises possibility of pardon
President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad on Wednesday raised the possibility of a pardon for the six French charity workers convicted in Chad
PARIS, February 6, 2008 - President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad on Wednesday
raised the possibility of a pardon for the six French charity workers
convicted in Chad and now serving their sentence in France, over the Zoe's Ark
"Given that the Chadian Constitution grants me the right to liberate
anyone, whoever they are, Chadian or foreigner, it is not impossible, if
France requests it of course, that I examine the question," said Deby in
"For the moment, I have not reflected on this question," he added.
Deby's comments brought fresh hope to the six charity workers sentenced
last month by French courts to eight years in prison following their
conviction by the Chadian courts in December to eight years' hard labour.
They were convicted of having tried to abduct more than 100 children from
the border with Sudan's war-torn Darfur.
Legal agreements between the two countries allowed for the repatriation of
the six to serve out their sentences in French jails.
After the French convictions in January however, their only remaining hope
of being freed lay with the president.
Lawyers for the French had already filed formal requests for pardons.
Olivier Desandre-Navarre, lawyer for the logistical specialist Dominique
Aubry, described Deby's comments as "a very encouraging sign".
"I hope he does it as soon as possible," said Mario Stasi, who represents
the nurse Nadia Merimi.
During their trial in Ndjamena, the Zoe's Ark members had protested their
innocence, saying they were misled by middlemen into believing the children
were orphans from the Sudanese region of Darfur which borders eastern Chad.
But the French court ruled there had been no "blatant denial of justice"
during their Chadian trial.
The Zoe's Ark members were detained on October 25 as they were about to put
the 103 children on a French-bound flight from the eastern Chad town of Abeche.
International aid staff later found almost all the children on board to be
Chadian, not war refugees from across the border, and to have at least one