French judge charges aid worker convicted in Chad

10th January 2008, Comments 0 comments

French judge on Wednesday charged with conspiring to allow illegal residents into France

   PARIS, January 9, 2008 - A French judge on Wednesday charged one of the
six aid workers convicted in Chad for attempted child kidnapping with
conspiring to allow illegal residents into France, his wife said.
   Alain Peligat, considered the logistics chief of the Zoe's Ark charity,
faces up to 10 years in jail and 750,000 euros (one million dollars) in fines
if convicted of the crime, said his wife Christine Peligat.
   Two other aid workers -- nurse Nadia Merimi and firefighter Dominique Aubry
-- were not formally charged and were still being considered as witnesses in
the case, their lawyers said.
   A judge was to decide whether to press charges against charity head Eric
Breteau and two others on Thursday, a judicial source said.
   The six aid workers returned to France on December 28, two days after a
court in Ndjamena sentenced them to eight years of hard labour on charges of
trying to abduct 103 African children.
   The members of L'Arche de Zoe (Zoe's Ark) were convicted of attempted
abduction for having tried to fly the children to France, claiming they were
war orphans from the Sudanese region of Darfur which borders eastern Chad.
   The charity workers protested innocence throughout the trial, saying they
had been misled about the children by middlemen.
   They were detained on October 25 when their flight, from the east Chad town
of Abeche, was foiled.
   International aid staff later found almost all the children on board were
Chadian and not war refugees from across the eastern border and that all had
at least one living parent.
   A court outside Paris is to decide on Monday how their hard labour
sentences are to be served in France, which has no such penalty.
   The transfer of the six French nationals to a prison in Fresnes outside
Paris follows an agreement between France and Chad to have them serve their
sentences in their home country.
   The case raised tensions between France and Chad, a former French colony,
as Paris prepares to spearhead a 3,500-strong EU peacekeeping force in eastern
Chad to protect refugee camps in the region bordering Darfur.

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