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Ivory Coast Tries Former First Lady for Crimes Against Humanity


FILE - Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone Ehivet Gbagbo attend a memorial ceremony at Felix Houphouet Boigny stadium in Abidjan.

FILE - Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone Ehivet Gbagbo attend a memorial ceremony at Felix Houphouet Boigny stadium in Abidjan.

While the trial of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo resumes at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis, the trial of his wife Simone Gbagbo, who faces similar charges, opens in Ivory Coast.

Simone Gbagbo's supporters gave her a warm welcome as she entered the criminal court that will judge her in Abidjan.

The former first lady is being tried for crimes allegedly committed during the post-electoral crisis in 2010 and 2011, triggered after her husband, then president Laurent Gbagbo, and contestant Alassane Ouattara both claimed victory in presidential elections.

The subsequent four months of violence left at least 3,000 people dead. She and her husband were eventually arrested and Ouattara became president.

While Laurent Gbagbo is on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Simone Gbagbo is being tried in Ivory Coast because Ivorian authorities refused to transfer her, claiming the country's justice system is capable of judging her.

People walk past a man selling a copy of Le Nouveau Courrier, which has a picture of Ivory Coast's former first lady Simone Gbagbo (2nd L, on newspaper), in Abidjan, March 10, 2015.

People walk past a man selling a copy of Le Nouveau Courrier, which has a picture of Ivory Coast's former first lady Simone Gbagbo (2nd L, on newspaper), in Abidjan, March 10, 2015.

Probably will be found guilty

Defense attorney Rodrigue Dadjé says Mrs. Gbagbo prefers to be judged by an Ivorian court, because she is accused of committing crimes towards her own citizens, so she must explain herself in front of them. But he adds that justice in Ivory Coast is not independent, is under the influence of the government, and that there are strong chances she will be condemned even if there is no evidence.

The defense argued in court Monday the composition of the jury is not fair and is biased against her.

Simone Gbagbo, 66 years old, was sentenced to 20 years in prison last year by a different court for undermining state security and organizing armed gangs. She has maintained her innocence.

Hoping for justice

Representing the state, prosecutor Soungalo Coulibaly says he is hoping justice will be served for the victims, who have suffered a lot. "Justice must be served in order to reconcile the population," he said.

Arguments are due to start later this month. Simone Gbagbo could face life in prison if she is found guilty.

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