ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — A court in Ivory Coast has handed down sentences of up to 20 years in prison in connection with the 2011 deaths of four foreigners who were kidnapped from the Novotel hotel in Abidjan.
The downtown hotel was a popular spot with foreigners including international journalists covering the country's violence as ex-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power after losing the election.
Witnesses said armed gunmen loyal to Gbagbo stormed the hotel on April 4, 2011, sending foreign guests into hiding on the upper floors.
Four people were seized: the hotel's French manager, a second French national and businessmen from Malaysia and Benin. One victim's body was found in a nearby lagoon with a bullet to the head. The other three are presumed dead.
Pierre Olivier Sur, who represented the victims' families, lamented Thursday that the defendants never cooperated and said where the bodies of the other three were located.
"But today we know who killed them, who gave the order," he said. "The most important thing is that justice was done. There was no desire for vengeance."
One of the defendants, Osee Logue, was sentenced to 20 years in prison while three others received 18 years. The others received sentences of 10 and six years.
"It's a failure to be content with a guilty verdict in order to please certain people; it's not enough," said Rodrigue Dadje, one of the defense lawyers. "I am sorry, but it doesn't resolve the problem of finding out the truth."
The attack took place not long before Gbagbo was captured, clearing the way for current President Alassane Ouattara to take office. Gbagbo now faces war crimes charges at The Hague.
Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.