Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Ivory Coast ex-first lady jailed


Then-Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, left, and his wife Simone Gbagbo attend a memorial ceremony at Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan on April 1, 2009.

Photo: Reuters

A criminal court in Ivory Coast sentenced former first lady Simone Gbagbo to 20 years in prison for her role in a five-month post-election crisis that followed a disputed vote in 2010.

The court in the commercial capital, Abidjan, convicted Gbagbo of creating armed gangs, taking part in an insurrection and public disorder, Gbagbo’s attorney Rodrigue Dadje said by phone yesterday. The prosecution had sought a 10-year sentence.

“This is a political judgement, not a criminal judgement,” Dadje said. “A criminal judgement has to be backed by facts and evidence, but in this case, there is no fact nor evidence. The political power has imposed this decision on the court.”

Gbagbo, 65, and more than 80 other people went on trial in December last year on charges related to the post-election violence that left more than 3,000 people dead in the world’s biggest cocoa-producing nation. Laurent Gbagbo, her husband, refused to step down after he lost to Alassane Ouattara.

The post-election crisis ended with the capture of Laurent Gbagbo and his wife in the basement of the presidential residence in April 2011 after French and UN soldiers and forces loyal to Ouattara laid siege to their home. Ouattara assumed office a month later and is likely to seek re-election in the next vote scheduled for October.

Simone Gbagbo, an evangelical Christian, was a co-founder of the the former ruling Ivorian Popular Front and served as deputy speaker of parliament when her husband was president. When she appeared in court last month before the judges and a panel of six jurors, she refused to acknowledge the charges against her and denied the accusations by the prosecutors.

Yesterday, the court also withdrew her right to vote or run for public office for 10 years, Dadje said. Michel Gbagbo, the son of the former president was sentenced to 5 years in prison, he said. Both have five days to appeal, Dadje added.

Laurent Gbagbo is currently in detention in the Netherlands awaiting trial by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity. Ivory Coast refused to hand over Simone Gbagbo to the ICC, saying the national courts were able to hear her case.

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