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Ivory Coast says ex first lady Gbagbo getting 'fair trial'

11 May 2016, 12:17

Abidjan - A prosecutor in the trial of Ivory Coast's former first lady Simone Gbagbo for crimes against humanity said on Tuesday it was fair and transparent, after the defence said the jury was biased.

A trial date of May 31 was announced on Monday during a hearing in the financial capital Abidjan which took place several weeks after a court rejected her appeal to have the case dropped.

Nicknamed the "Iron Lady", the wife of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo is already serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted last year of "attacking state authority" in connection with sweeping violence after the 2010 election that her husband lost to the country's current leader Alassane Ouattara. The unrest left more than 3 000 people dead.

At Monday's hearing, her lawyers denounced the composition of the jury, saying it was stacked against their client, who is accused of having people from the mainly Muslim north killed, as most jurors are from the north of the country.

The prosecutor of Abidjan, Aly Yeo, said in a statement sent to AFP that Simone Gbagbo would receive a fair trial.

"The trial will be held before a legally constituted court with complete transparency following the procedures specified in the law," he said in the statement.

He added that the jurors had been chosen for their "integrity and honesty", and that there was no basis for claiming jurors were selected on the basis of "ethnic or regional affiliation”.

He also noted that Ivory Coast had chosen to try suspected war criminals in national courts rather than before the International Criminal Tribunal (ICC) in The Hague.

Consequently, Simone Gbagbo, 66, has not been transferred there to face ICC accusations of a key role in the 2010 post-election unrest.

Laurent Gbagbo however is on trial at the ICC for war crimes also related to the unrest that followed his refusing to step down after the vote.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, has struggled to return to normalcy after years of civil war, which effectively divided the country between the mainly Christian south and the largely Muslim north.

Ouattara finally took power in 2011 with help from former colonial ruler France and the arrest of the Gbagbos.

The 74-year-old was re-elected to a five-year term in 2015.

And in a further sign of the west African country bouncing back from turmoil, the UN Security Council last month lifted the remaining sanctions on Ivory Coast and said it would shut down its peacekeeping mission there next year.



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