Paris — The trial of a French couple accused of trying to smuggle 103 children from Chad to France in 2007 began in Paris, on Monday, 3 December. The children were going to be adopted in France, according to allegations.
The suspects assure the children were orphans from Darfur. However, authorities claim these children came from Chad and most of them were not orphans, the Associated Press reports.
Members of the NGO l'Arche de Zoé were arrested by the Chadian police at the Abeche airport, in eastern Chad, as they were allegedly trying to board an airplane with the children.
Eric Breteau, the NGO's chairman and his partner Emilie Lelouch, are not attending the trial. They are currently living and working in South Africa, according to reports.
The other suspects include the group's doctor Philippe Van Winkelberg, logistics organizer Alain Péligat, journalist Agnès Peleran and Christophe Letien, an Arche de Zoé member.
At the time of the arrest, nine French citizens were detained, charged with kidnapping minor and fraud, along with seven Spanish individuals, who were charged with complicity. They were later released, together with a Belgian pilot and journalists traveling with them.
Six French citizens had been sentenced to eight years of forced labor in Chad for kidnapping and must pay 6.3 million euros to the children's families. However, the suspects were pardoned by the Chadian president and were sent back to France in 2008.