I Coast's former first lady 'to be freed Wednesday': lawyer

2018-08-07 17:00
Ivory Coast's former first lady Simone Gbagbo. (File, AFP)

Ivory Coast's former first lady Simone Gbagbo. (File, AFP)

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Ivory Coast's former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, who is serving a 20-year jail term, will be freed on Wednesday after President Alassan Ouattara granted her an amnesty, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

The wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo has spent seven years behind bars for her role in a wave of political violence that claimed several thousand lives in 2010-11.

On the eve of independence day, Ouattara had on Monday announced an amnesty for Simone Gbagbo and around 800 others in the name of national reconciliation.

Her attorney, Rodrigue Dadje, told AFP she would be "released tomorrow, after the judicial formalities have been completed."

She was "delighted to learn the news of her release," Dadje said.

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Simone Gbagbo was convicted for "endangering state security" for her part in post-electoral violence and sentenced in 2015.

She had been implicated in the 2011 shelling of a market in an Abidjan district that supported Ouattara and for belonging to a "crisis cell" that allegedly coordinated attacks by the armed forces and militias in support of her husband.

Laurent Gbagbo has been in detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for seven years. He has been on trial since 2016 for alleged crimes against humanity.

In February 2012, the ICC also issued a warrant for Simone Gbagbo's arrest.

In 2016, Ouattara said he would "no longer send" Ivorian nationals to the court, as the country now had a "functioning justice system."

About 3 000 people died in the turmoil that erupted in Abidjan - once one of Africa's most cosmopolitan cities - after presidential elections in November 2010 when Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat to Ouattara, his bitter rival.

The conflict left a legacy of political friction that endures today. The lack of national reconciliation has been seen by many observers as the biggest mark against Ouattara's record.

Among others granted amnesties were former defence minister Lida Kouassi - a key Gbagbo ally - who was sentenced this year to 15 years for conspiracy, and former construction minister Assoa Adou, jailed in 2017 for four years.

Around 500 of those named have already been released provisionally from detention, the president said. They will have their criminal records erased.

The other 300 will be released "soon", he added, without giving any dates.

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