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French journalists charged with "kidnapping minors" and "fraud"

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced disappointment and dismay on learning that French photo-reporters Marc Garmirian of the Capa news agency and Jean-Daniel Guillou of the Synchro X agency were formally charged, on 29 October 2007, in the eastern city of Abéché with "kidnapping minors" and "fraud" along with members of Arche de Zoé (Zoé's Ark), the French charity whose activities they were covering.

Another French journalist, Marie-Agnès Peleran of the France 3 Méditerranée TV station, who was in Chad in a personal capacity and was filming Arche de Zoé's operation with a camera borrowed from her TV station, was also charged along with the other members of the group arrested in Abéché on 25 October.

"Despite all the evidence, the Chadian authorities have obstinately prolonged the injustice inflicted on Garmirian and Guillou," Reporters Without Borders said. "The authorities still have not listened to us, although it is clear the journalists should not be lumped with the charity's members. So, until they are released, we must mobilise and keep repeating that journalists are neutral and can in no way be regarded as participants in any crime that may have taken place."

Reporters Without Borders intends to travel at once to Chad to plead the cause of the detained journalists with the authorities in the capital, N'Djamena.

Garmirian and Guillou were charged on 29 October by an Abéché judge along with seven other French citizens - six members of Arche de Zoé and Peleran - with "fraud" and "abduction of minors tending to compromise their civil status." The charges were brought at the request of the city's prosecutor. The seven Spanish crew members of a plane chartered by Arche de Zoé were charged with complicity.

Garmirian's Chadian lawyer, Jean-Daniel Daniel Padaré, told Reporters Without Borders the 16 Europeans would be transferred either on 30 or 31 October to N'Djamena to be held in pre-trial detention. When asked why they were being moved to the capital, Padaré said it could be for "security reasons" because the authorities feared the possibility of reprisals against the detainees by the population in Abéché.

Garmirian and Guillou were arrested by Chadian soldiers at Abéché airport on 25 October while covering Arche de Zoé's attempt to evacuate 103 African children to France.

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