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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 February 2008, 11:18 GMT
Chad to pardon French kidnappers
Aid workers boarding plane back to France from N'Djamena 28-12-2007
The aid workers were flown home in late December
Chadian President Idriss Deby has said he is ready to pardon six French aid workers convicted of trying to fly 103 children out of the country.

The six were sentenced to eight years' hard labour in Chad last year, but were flown home in December to serve equivalent jail terms in France.

Responding to Mr Deby's statement, the French government said it was sending a pardon request.

The development comes as France is helping Chad fight a rebel offensive.

Interviewed about the fate of the convicted aid workers, the Chadian president told French radio that he was ready to pardon them if the Paris government requested it.

Later on Thursday, the French presidency said it was sending the request "immediately", AFP news agency reported.

'Vital information'

The aid workers, who are members of the charity Zoe's Ark, denied kidnapping charges during the trial.

They said they had been tricked into thinking the children they were preparing to fly to France were Sudanese orphans from Darfur.

In fact the children were found to be from Chad itself, and many had parents who were still alive.

Mr Deby made the pardon offer in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, after talks with Defence Minister Herve Morin.

During the visit he thanked France, the former colonial power in Chad, for backing his government.

He said Paris had provided vital information in the face of a week-long assault, during which the rebels briefly stormed N'Djamena.

France has more than 1,400 troops in Chad.

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