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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Helping Orphans or Modern Day Trade with Human Beings


Members of a charity and three Spanish air crew being held in Chad on child kidnapping charges have appeared in court.

Their appearance came as a French journalist who had been with the group before he was released on Sunday said his former fellow detainees had displayed "dramatic amateurishness" and lied about their plans.

Marc Garmirian, one of three French reporters released on Sunday, interviewed members of the group during the operation and filmed them putting bandages on children to make them appear injured before their planned flight to France.

"I realised rather quickly that in what you could call the investigation, or the interviews they conducted with the children or the people who brought them the children, they displayed a dramatic amateurishness," he told TF1 television.

Fake injuries

Six of the 10 Europeans still in custody are members of the organisation Zoe's Ark, which has said it intended to place orphans from Darfur with European families for foster care and that it had the right to do so under international law.

But UN and Chadian officials say most of the 103 children, who are between one and 10-years-old, have at least one living parent and came from the violent Chad-Sudan border area.
On Sunday Garmirian's employer, the French news agency Capa, released television footage that showed members of Zoe's Ark putting bandages on children and pouring dark liquid on them to make it seem as though they were injured.

The head of Zoe's Ark, Eric Breteau, said in the footage that he knew he might be arrested over the operation.

"If I am thrown in prison for saving children from Darfur ... I think that after all I would be proud to go to prison for that," Breteau said.

Garmirian, who left Chad on the jet of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, along with the two other reporters and four Spanish flight attendants, said Zoe's Ark workers failed to tell Chadians they dealt with that they planned to take the children to France.

"They lied to all the Chadians," he told Reuters Television.

Release request

"According to them it was an essential condition of the operation's success.

"They worked for a month and a half with around 100 people - accountants, nannies who looked after the children, cooks, drivers - to all these people their message was, 'We are opening an orphanage in Abeche'," Garmirian said.

Abeche is a city in Chad near the border with Sudan.

Members of Zoe's Ark and the three remaining Spanish air crew appeared in court in Chad's capital N'Djamena on Monday.

Abdou Lamian, a lawyer for Zoe's Ark, said: "People have been sensationalising this affair, pronouncing they are guilty even before the judge has tried them."

Jean-Bernard Padare, a Chadian lawyer defending the Spanish detainees, said he would file a request on Tuesday for their provisional release.

"There is no reason to keep them in detention," he said.

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