Chad Pardons, Frees French 'Orphan' Kidnappers

Chad's president pardons aid workers
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2008 11:49 AM CDT
Doctor Philippe Van Winkelberg from the French charity Zoe's Ark gets out of Draguignan's prison, southern France, with his wife Antonia, Monday, March 31, 2008.   (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – The six men imprisoned for kidnapping 103 Chadian children have been pardoned and freed from a French prison, reports the BBC. Convicted in Chad and sentenced to hard labor, the members of charity group Zoe's Ark had been transferred to a facility in France, and received a pardon from Chadian president Idriss Deby yesterday.

The move is seen as a goodwill gesture to the French government after it helped Deby quell a coup attempt in February. The members of Zoe's Ark had traveled to Africa to "rescue" orphans from the Sudanese region of Darfur, but the children they were attempting to fly to France were Chadian, and almost all of them had at least one parent.