Six French aid workers have been sentenced to eight years of hard labour each after a court in Chad found them guilty of trying to kidnap 103 children from the African country. The French government is to ask Chad to allow the convicted six to be transferred back home to France to serve their jail sentences in their own country.
Defense lawyer Gilbert Collard is critical of the sentence:
“Now I hope the French government will move quickly to bring back home our citizens who were caught in a trap whose only purpose was to show justice exists in Chad, when in fact it doesn’t.”
The four men and two women were members of the French humanitarian group “Zoe’s ark.”
They were arrested in October for trying to fly the children, aged from one to 10, to Europe.
The wife of Philippe van Winkelberg, one of the six aid workers sentenced to eight years of forced labour reacted with shock and sorrow when she heard the news. She said her husband was sent to jail because he cared for people.
The wife of another of the condemned aid workers, Christine Peligat, said her first sentiments were to get the trial over with and now that’s it’s done she wants to know when he will be back in France.
Chad’s government had faced heavy popular pressure to punish the Zoe’s Ark members.
But there is widespread expectation of a diplomatic deal between Paris and N’Djamena to transfer the six quickly back to France as part of a judicial cooperation accord that exists between the two countries.