Monday, November 05, 2007

Four GIRjet crew arrested in Chad are free, three remain in custody

GIRjet logoOn October 25, 2007, the crew of a Boeing 757 aircraft operated by Spanish charter carrier GIRjet were arrested in Abéché, a town in eastern Chad. The two pilots and five cabin crew, all reported to be of Spanish nationality, were accused as accessories in an alleged child kidnapping operation.

The aircraft on which they were working was chartered by a French charity called L'Arche de Zoe (Zoe's Ark) to airlift 103 children from Chad to France. Apparently the operation was illegal, however it is unlikely that the crew were aware of this fact.

A news report on said:
On Tuesday, Spanish Minister of Justice Mariano Fernández Bermejo reported that "every possible effort is being made to convince officials in Chad that the Spanish nationals had nothing to do with the attempt to remove the children from the country," because they had merely been contracted by the French NGO and were not even informed of the identity, ages or conditions of the passengers.
In a dramatic move, French President Nicolas Sarkozy flew to the Chadian capital N'Djamena yesterday and obtained the release of three French journalists and four of the GIRjet cabin crew, all women. The women were repatriated to Spain, according to news reports. The male cabin crew member and both pilots are still being held in Chad.

Earlier today the French airline pilots' association SNPL, the union that represents Air France pilots, issued a statement that defends the imprisoned crew and calls for a boycott of Chad airports unless the remaining GIRjet crew members are released and repatriated within eight days.

Along with the rest of the aviation community, I am hoping that the government of Chad will soon release the crew members who are still detained. I will post any new developments regarding the crew as they become available.

UPDATE November 9, 2007: After spending two weeks in custody in Chad, the three male GIRjet crew members have been released and returned to Spain. Captain Augustin Rey, F/O Sergio Munoz, and cabin crew member Daniel Gonzalez left N'Djamena today aboard a Spanish Air Force plane bound for Madrid, according to an Agence France Presse news story.