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France Asks Chad to Return Convicted Aid Workers


France has formally asked Chad to send home six French aid workers sentenced to eight years hard labor on a conviction for attempted kidnapping.

The prisoners could serve out their sentence at home under terms of a 1976 judicial accord between France and its former colony.

However, Chad's justice minister, Albert Pahimi Padake, said Thursday that Chadian authorities would have to approve any transfer request.

France does not allow hard labor in its prisons, so a transfer would involve an easing of the sentence handed down by a Chadian court on Wednesday.

The court convicted the French nationals of attempting to kidnap 103 African children they claimed were orphans from Sudan's Darfur region. Investigators later found most of the children were Chadian and had at least one parent or guardian.

The French aid workers, all members of the charity Zoe's Ark, were arrested in October as they tried to put the children on a plane bound for France. Eleven other Europeans arrested in connection with the operation were released.

Along with the prison sentence, the Chadian court ordered the aid workers to pay $88,000 in damages to each of the 103 children involved in the case.

A Chadian and a Sudanese accused of working with the charity also were sentenced to four years of hard labor.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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