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Charity Worker Says Chadian Leaders Lied About Children Being Orphans


One of six French aid workers charged with trying to kidnap more than 100 children in Chad has testified that they were led to believe the children were orphans.

Emilie Lelouch told a court Saturday that they never met with parents of any of the children when taking them from villages to await a flight to France. She said the aid workers with the charity group "Zoe's Ark" only met with local village leaders who said the children were Sudanese refugees.

She suggested it was only later that the workers learned some of the children had parents in Chad.

A Sudanese defendant accused involvement in the alleged kidnappings, Souleyman Ibrahim Ada, testified that the charity workers misled him. He said he was told the children were only being taken to Adre in eastern Chad. He said he never knew the charity planned to fly them to France.

The trial began Friday in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena.

Zoe's Ark director Eric Breteau testified on the first day that the group believed it was saving orphans from Sudan's troubled Darfur region in the west.

An international investigation later determined that most of the 103 children appeared to be from eastern Chad and had at least one parent or guardian.

If convicted, the French defendants face up to 20 years in prison with hard labor.

The French aid workers were among 17 Europeans arrested in late October, as they tried to put the children on a plane bound for France. The 11 other Europeans - all crew members or journalists on the planned flight - were later released.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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