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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 November 2007, 14:49 GMT
Chadians charged over kidnapping
Chadian officials in court on 07 Nov charged in the Zoe's Ark case
There were protests as the four Tine officials arrived at the court
Four Chadian nationals have appeared in court in Ndjamena, charged in connection with the attempted airlift of 103 children to France.

The four, officials from the border town of Tine, were charged with "fraud and complicity to kidnap minors".

Six French members of the charity Zoe's Ark, three Spaniards and a Belgian are in jail awaiting trail.

A French lawyer, Gilbert Collard, arrived in Ndjamena on Tuesday to take charge of the charity workers' defence.

The four Chadians who appeared at Ndjamena's Palais de Justice are the mayor and secretary-general, deputy governor and neighbourhood chief of the town of Tine.

They are likely to face trial alongside 10 Europeans - six are members of Zoe's Ark, three members of the Spanish flight crew and a Belgian pilot - who were questioned by a prosecutor on Monday.

If convicted on charges of kidnapping or being an accessory the defendants face long prison sentences with hard labour.

'Complicated'

Their defence team has been strengthened by the arrival of the lawyer for the charity.

But Mr Collard was critical of remarks by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, who negotiated the release of journalists and air hostesses last week.

Gilbert Collard, French lawyer for charity Zoe's Ark in Ndjamena 07 Nov
The charity's lawyer was critical of President Sarkozy's comments

Mr Sarkozy said he would go again to Chad "and bring back those who stayed behind, regardless of what they have done."

"This declaration makes our life more complicated - and that is also the opinion of our Chadian colleagues," Gilbert Collard told the French news agency AFP.

Mr Sarkozy's spokesman later amended the statement to emphasise that any eventual extradition would be dependent on the decision of the Chadian authorities.

The 103 children were discovered aboard a plane on the tarmac in the eastern town of Abeche on 25 October - most say they are Chadian and were living with their families.

Zoe's Ark had said it was rescuing orphans from the war-torn Sudanese province of Darfur for adoption in France.



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