Spain ‘disagrees’ with charges against nationals

Spain ”disagrees” with charges filed against seven Spaniards in Chad over an alleged operation by a French charity to abduct 103 children to France, its Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

”The government disagrees with this accusation,” Spain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Bernardino Leon, told Spanish public radio RNE.

”Everything seems to indicate there is no conclusive evidence against the Spaniards. Until this evidence is presented, the government will continue to maintain that they are innocent and continue to demand their release,” he added.

The seven Spanish nationals were the crew of the aircraft that the charity Zoe’s Ark planned to use to fly the children out of Chad. They, along with two Chadian nationals, were charged late on Monday with complicity to kidnapping.

Nine French nationals — six members of the charity Zoe’s Ark and three journalists — were, meanwhile, charged with ”kidnapping of minors” and ”fraud” in the eastern town of Abeche.

The Europeans were arrested on Thursday as they prepared to put the children, presented as orphans whose lives were at risk from civil war in Sudan’s western province of Darfur, on a chartered flight to France.

Aid workers caring for the children in Abeche — who were to be adopted or fostered by families in France each paying €2 800 to €6 000 — say they are aged one to 10; that most seem to be from Chad, not Darfur; and that there is no proof they are orphans.

Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno has reacted furiously, suggesting the group planned to sell the children or ”kill them and remove their organs”, leading analysts to believe he is seeking to gain political mileage from the case.

The French government, which had asked for the journalists to be judged separately from the charity members, had promised full consular assistance to its nationals.

It had yet to react officially on Tuesday morning to news of the charges. — Sapa-AFP

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