CHRONOLOGY-Politics, diplomacy play role in Zoe's Ark case

Dec 26 (Reuters) - A court in Chad on Wednesday sentenced six French aid workers to eight years of forced labour after finding them guilty of trying to kidnap 103 children.

The six, from humanitarian group Zoe's Ark, were stopped in October from flying the children, aged between one and 10, out of Chad to Europe. Chad said they had no authorisation to take the infants out of the country.

Here is a chronology of the case:

Oct. 25, 2007 - Police in Chad arrest nine French citizens in eastern Chad, near the Darfur border, as they prepare to fly 103 African children to France. Seven Spaniards, who formed the crew of the chartered plane, were also detained.

-- Among those detained were six members of the French humanitarian group Zoe's Ark, which had said it intended to bring orphans from Sudan's violent Darfur region to France for fostering with families there.

Oct. 30 - Chadian authorities bring abduction and fraud charges against the nine French and seven Spanish nationals who they accuse of illegally trying to fly the children to Europe. A Belgian pilot was detained separately.

Oct. 31 - Chadians chanting "no to the slave trade, no to child trafficking" protest against the French group.

Nov. 4 - Three French journalists and four Spanish flight attendants are released after diplomatic pressure from Paris. French President Nicholas Sarkozy flies to N'Djamena to meet Chadian President Idriss Deby and collect the freed Europeans.

-- UNICEF says the bid by the French aid workers to fly the children out of Chad and place them with families in France breached international law.

Nov. 9 - Chad releases the three remaining Spanish aircrew and the Belgian pilot.

Dec. 7 - The six French nationals start a hunger strike, refusing food but drinking water.

Dec. 21 - The six French go on trial charged with kidnapping and fraud in an N'Djamena courtroom, amid heavy security.

Dec. 26 - The six are found guilty and sentenced to eight years of forced labour. (Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)