Alleged French Kidnappers Go on Trial in Chad

Charity workers on hunger strike; they face 20 years hard labor
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2007 7:21 AM CST
Chadian judges stand outside court during a protest over the French-based humanitarian organization Zoe's Ark, after some of its members allegedly plotted to kidnap 103 children, said to be orphans from...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Six French citizens accused of the attempted kidnapping of 103 children have gone on trial in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena, in a courtroom surrounded by riot police and packed with journalists. The members of the Zoe's Ark charity, who claim that the children were orphans from Darfur whom they were taking to foster families in France, have gone on hunger strike. If found guilty, they face 20 years of hard labor, reports the BBC.

Charity workers are alleged to have bandaged children who were uninjured  and caked their skin with fake blood before trying to board a flight to Paris. Most of the Chadian children turned out to have one or more living parents or guardians. Although the French government has appealed for leniency, a minister in Chad told Reuters, "Have you ever seen an African sent back home after committing a crime as serious?"