Simone Gbagbo and her lawyers snub Ivory Coast trial

2016-10-25 20:02
Simone Gbagbo. (File: AFP)

Simone Gbagbo. (File: AFP)

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Abidjan - Ivory Coast's former first lady Simone Gbagbo on Tuesday refused to attend her trial for crimes against humanity due to a row with the court over the failure of high-profile witnesses to take the stand.

"This morning, when I sent security officers to fetch her, she told them she couldn't come, in line with her lawyers' decision to suspend their participation," prosecutor Aly Yeo said.

The judge suspended the trial until November 3.

Gbagbo's lawyers had announced their refusal to attend on Monday due to a no-show by witnesses they had called to testify, including a former premier, an ex general and a police chief.

"We are still demanding that our witnesses appear, that's the principle of a trial. We haven't heard the testimony of those involved," said lawyer Ange Rodrigue Dadje.

Monday was supposed to be the first day of witnesses called by the defence, with Gbagbo's lawyers calling figures including parliament speaker Guillaume Soro, former premier Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou and former army chief Philippe Mangou.

"The process is biased, the court does not want a fair trial," said Dohora Blede, one of the lawyers defending Gbagbo over post-election violence that left more than 3 000 dead in 2010-11.

Free testify 

"We see that our witnesses are not present - we have asked for a delay of four days to see these people, who are indispensable for demonstrating the truth."

But the prosecution said witnesses were free to testify or not and that it was up to the defence to make sure they turned up.

"Now they have an extra week," the prosecutor said.

Gbagbo has been on trial since the end of May, accused of involvement in the shelling of Abobo, a northern suburb of Abidjan which was a stronghold of Alassane Ouattara, who beat her husband Laurent in the 2010 election and is now president.

She is also accused of being a member of a "crisis cell" that allegedly co-ordinated pro-Gbagbo attacks by the armed forces and militias.

She is already serving a 20-year sentence for "endangering state security".

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, was rocked by deadly violence for five months after Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede the 2010 election to Ouattara.

He is currently on trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Read more on:    simone gbagbo  |  ivory coast  |  west africa

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