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Chad kidnappers jailed for 8 years

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  • NEW: Six French charity workers sentenced to eight years in prison in France
  • Workers were convicted in Chad last month of trying to kidnap 103 children
  • They were handed over to France after being sentenced to eight years' hard labor
  • Sentence was converted as France does not have hard labor in its statutes
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PARIS, France (CNN) -- A French court sentenced six charity workers to eight years in prison on Monday for the attempted kidnapping of 103 children in Chad.

The convicted Zoe's Ark workers were flown home to France last month.

A court in Chad had sentenced the members of the charity Zoe's Ark to eight years of hard labor in Chad last month.

But after French President Nicolas Sarkozy intervened, Chad handed them over to France to serve their sentences.

The public prosecutor had asked the French judge to convert the Chadian sentence -- which does not exist in French law -- to eight years in prison.

The Zoe's Ark workers have the right to appeal the decision.

They have been identified by France's state radio as Eric Breteau -- the group's leader -- Emilie Lelouch, Alain Peligat, Philippe van Winkelberg, Dominique Aubry and Nadia Merimi.

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Two weeks ago they appeared in front of a judge in the Paris suburb of Creteil, when the public prosecutor asked that the Chadian sentence be converted to a term in prison, a court of appeals spokeswoman told CNN.

The Zoe's Ark workers were charged in October last year, having been arrested along with three French journalists and seven members of a Spanish charter flight company as they tried to leave the country with the children on a plane bound for Paris.

The journalists and flight crew were subsequently released.

Zoe's Ark claims it was on a mission to rescue orphans from Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, but other charities then investigated and determined that most of the children were from Chad, not Sudan, and had at least one living parent.

The six were reportedly also ordered to pay $87,000 to each of the 103 children in their African sentencing, but it has not yet been revealed if the French court upheld that part of the punishment. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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