Ivory Coast jails ex-first lady for 20 years over poll violence

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 10, 2015 3:29 AM

By Ange Aboa

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - A court in Ivory Coast sentenced former first lady Simone Gbagbo on Tuesday to 20 years in prison for her role in a 2011 post-election crisis in which around 3,000 people were killed, her lawyer said.

Gbagbo, who is also wanted by the International Criminal Court, was tried alongside 82 other allies of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo in a case that revived deep divisions in a nation still recovering from years of political turmoil and conflict.

General Bruno Dogbo Ble, who headed the elite republican guard, and former navy chief Admiral Vagba Faussignaux were both jailed for 20 years, according to their lawyer, while others including the former president's son got shorter sentences.

Supporters of ex-president Gbagbo, whose refusal to acknowledge his defeat to Alassane Ouattara in elections in late 2010 sparked the brief civil war, claimed his wife's trial was politically motivated.

"The jury members retained all the charges against her, including disturbing the peace, forming and organizing armed gangs and undermining state security. It's a shame," said Simone Gbagbo's lawyer Rodrigue Dadje.

The sentence handed down by the six-member jury was longer than the 10 years requested by the state prosecutor. The former first lady's civil rights will also be suspended for a period of 10 years, Dadje said.

Laurent Gbagbo is awaiting trial at the ICC accused of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in orchestrating the violence. Ivory Coast refused to transfer Simone Gbagbo to The Hague to face similar charges, arguing that she could receive a fair trial in a domestic court.

The trial verdicts were announced in the early hours of Tuesday morning after around nine hours of deliberations by the jury, with the former president's son, Michel Gbagbo, also convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, Dadje said.

Pascal Affi N'Guessan, president of Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party and seen as a potential candidate to challenge President Ouattara in presidential elections later this year, was handed an 18-month suspended sentence.

On Monday, the final day of the trial, Simone Gbagbo said she had been insulted and humiliated by the prosecution, which she said had failed to prove her guilt.

"I'm prepared to forgive. I forgive because, if we don't forgive, this country will burn," she said. "I am satisfied with this trial. I told my part of the truth."

(Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Catherine Evans)