Chad 'kidnap' detainee has heart attack

A Belgian pilot charged in connection with the alleged abduction of African children has suffered a heart attack in the Chadian prison where he was being held.


Jacques Wilmart, 75, was transferred from the jail to a French military base in Chad's capital, Ndjamena, for treatment after being taken ill late on Thursday.

Mr Wilmart is one of 10 Europeans awaiting trial over an attempt by French charity Zoe's Ark to airlift 103 children to France for adoption.

The retired pilot flew some of the youngsters from Chad's eastern border with Sudan to the town of Abeche, from where they were to have been taken to Europe.

Children 'not orphans'

Zoe's Ark claims it was acting in good faith, trying to save refugee orphans from Darfur.

But Chadian authorities and human rights organisations say the many of the children have parents who are alive, and that they are from Chad, not Sudan.

A total of 17 Europeans and four Chadians were initially arrested in the case.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Chad last week, returning with three French journalists and four Spanish flight attendants.

Six French charity workers, three members of the Spanish air crew and Mr Wilmart remain in custody alongside the Chadian officials.

Court appearance

Earlier on Thursday, the prosecutor in the case took evidence from the six French nationals who are the main suspects in the case.

Zoe's Ark president Eric Breteau told the court Mr Wilmart, the Spaniards and three of the four Chadian officials had not been privy to the charity's plans, a legal source reported.

Outside, about 100 mainly young people gathered with a banner that read “Sarkozy, justice must be done in Chad”.

Mr Sarkozy sparked anger in Chad when he suggested earlier this week that he would bring the detained charity workers back to France.