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Ivory Coast tries former first lady

December 26, 2014

A court in Abidjan has begun proceedings against Simone Gbagbo, wife of former President Laurent Gbagbo. They have been accused of compromising state security in 2010, leading to riots that killed thousands.

Simone Gbagbo
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/Blackwell

Simone Gbagbo was presented in court with 82 other civilians and soldiers in the most important trial since Gbagbo's husband, Laurent Gbagbo, was driven from presidency in 2011.

The 77 men and six women, including the former first lady, were charged with "undermining national defense, setting up armed groups, taking part in an insurrection movement, disturbing the public order" and inciting "xenophobia" in 2010, when fighting broke out after former President Gbagbo refused to give up his post despite losing in the elections.

The case, which was being heard by nine judges and was expected to last for a month, would be "fair and transparent," news agency AFP quoted state prosecutor Simeon Yabo Odi as saying.

If found guilty, Gbagbo, who has been under house arrest for the last three years, could face up to 20 years imprisonment.

'Fair and transparent trial'

Violence broke out in the Ivory Coast in 2010 when Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down form the president's post despite his rival Alassane Ouattara winning the elections. Simone Gbagbo, who earned the moniker "Iron lady" during her husband's regime, is accused of being an accomplice in inciting the violence that followed, leaving 3,000 people dead.

Laurent Gbagbo mit seiner Frau Simone
Better times: Gbagbo and his wifeImage: picture-alliance/dpa/N. Bothma

Simone Gbagbo's trial was a test for the country, which is trying to obtain five million euros in aid from the European Union to rehabilitate the Ivorian justice system, Reuters news agency quoted a defense lawyer as saying.

"It will enable Ivory Coast to show it is capable of organizing a jury trial," Pierre Adjoumani, head of the Ivorian human rights league, told Reuters.

Abidjan had earlier used this argument to prevent the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague from taking up the case. Gbagbo's husband Laurent Gbagbo and his associate Charles Ble Goude were being tried in the ICC for crimes against humanity among several other charges.

mg/sb (AFP, Reuters)