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Ivory Coast Soldiers Get Life Sentences for Killing Former Junta Leader


General Brunot Dogbo Ble, foreground, and Anselme Seka Yapo, ex-chief of security for former first lady Simone Gbagbo, attend their trial with other defendants in the killing of Robert Guei in Abidjan, Feb. 17, 2016.

General Brunot Dogbo Ble, foreground, and Anselme Seka Yapo, ex-chief of security for former first lady Simone Gbagbo, attend their trial with other defendants in the killing of Robert Guei in Abidjan, Feb. 17, 2016.

Three former senior officers were found guilty Thursday and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Ivory Coast's former junta leader and president, Robert Gueï.

Madeleine Coulibaly, the sister of a military officer killed along with Gueï, said she was relieved by the verdict.

"Justice has been served," Coulibaly said, "and thanks to that, I think we will finally be able to find closure."

Gueï became Ivory Coast's leader in 1999 following a military coup, before losing to contender Laurent Gbagbo in presidential elections a year later.

Gueï's bullet-ridden body was found by a road in Abidjan the day of a failed coup against Gbagbo in September 2002, which led to years of crisis in the country.

The three accused in the trial included a former commander of the presidential guard and the head of the bodyguards of Gbagbo's wife. They were found guilty of murder and complicity in murder.

One of the lawyers for the defense, Modeste Ablié, said they intended to appeal the decision.

"I'm disappointed, but not discouraged," Ablié said. "As we exit this courtroom, we will appeal the decision because we believe that our clients don't deserve a life sentence. The prosecution wasn't able to give damning evidence against them."

Others accused were sentenced to 10 years in prison, while a dozen were acquitted.

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