Chad frees 3 French journalists, 4 Spanish crew

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N'DJAMENA, Nov 4 (Reuters) Chad released three French journalists and four Spanish flight attendants today, a lawyer for one of the journalists said, after French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Africa to discuss their case.

The seven were among 16 French and seven Spanish nationals arrested in the eastern Chadian town of Abeche, near the border with Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, just over a week ago as they tried to fly 103 young African children to Europe.

''They are happy, they are free,'' Jean-Bernard Padare, a Chadian lawyer, told Reuters by phone.

He said the seven were collecting their belongings from the main law courts in the capital N'Djamena, where they had undergone more than 12 hours of questioning on Saturday by an investigating magistrate.

Six members of a French group called Zoe's Ark and the three other members of a Spanish air crew are still in custody facing charges relating to child abduction and fraud.

Zoe's Ark has said it intended to place orphans from Darfur with European families for foster care and that it had the right to do so under international law.

Sarkozy arrived in N'Djamena on Sunday to meet Chadian President Idriss Deby and discuss the fate of the Europeans amid increasing expectations that some of them would be freed.

REUTERS ARB RN1927

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