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Chad asks France for damages over 'rescued children'

Latest update : 2008-10-18

Chad has called on France to collect millions of euros in compensation for the families of the 100 supposed orphans the French charity Zoe's Ark tried to 'rescue' earlier this year.

Chad said Friday it has called on France to collect millions of euros in damages awarded against six French charity workers involved in the abortive rescue of more than 100 supposed orphans.
   
"In the meantime Chad has released 1.5 billion CFA francs (2.3 million euros) for the families," said Communications Minister Mahamat Hissene, who is also the government spokesman.
   
"The government thinks that the children should get the benefit of the damages. We prefer to advance them the money while waiting to be paid by France," he said.
   
The damages were awarded after Chad accused the six workers, belonging to the Zoe's Ark charity, of trying to kidnap 103 children, though its members argued they were trying to help orphans from the war-ravaged Darfur region in Sudan, just across Chad's border.
   
But inquiries later by international experts found the children were not Sudanese and most had relatives.
   
The six were arrested in October last year and originally sentenced to eight years of hard labour in Chad, which was later translated into prison terms on their return to France earlier this year.
   
In December last year a Chadian court also ordered the workers to pay 6.3 million euros (8.45 million dollars) in damages and interest to the families of the children.
   
The six were subsequently freed when pardoned by Chadian President Idriss Deby but N'djamena has insisted the pardon did not extend to the payment demanded.
   
None of the workers are thought to have the funds to pay the damages and the French government has said it will not do so.
   
In a letter to French Justice Minister Rachida Dati earlier this month the Chadian government called on the legal authorities to execute the judgement, the government spokesman told AFP.
   
"We think that in obtaining the transfer of the French (prisoners) to France, France also assumed the charge of the damages and interest," the spokesman said.
   
Hissene said the disagreement over who was responsible for payment did not affect relations between the two countries. He also denied that France had already made unofficial payments, saying that if that was the case Chad would not be asking for the money.
  

Date created : 2008-10-17

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