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Lawyer Blames Politics for Trial of Former First Lady of Ivory Coast

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Simone Gbagbo, wife of Laurent Gbagbo, reacts during a pro-Gbagbo rally in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Nov. 22, 2012.

FILE - Simone Gbagbo, wife of Laurent Gbagbo, reacts during a pro-Gbagbo rally in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Nov. 22, 2012.

The attorney for Simone Gbagbo, wife of Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo, says he will petition a court to release the former first lady from three years under house arrest as her trial continues next week.

Mrs. Gbagbo is charged with attempting to undermine the country’s security, because of her alleged role in the 2010 post-election violence that left about 3,000 people dead and scores displaced from their homes.

But, defense attorney Rodrigue Dadje dismissed the charges.

“It is only a political attack against her,” said Dadje.

He says prosecutors are yet to present any evidence of crimes committed by Mrs. Gbagbo.

“In this claim, there [are] no facts against Madam Gbagbo. Nobody can tell Madame Gbagbo that [on] January, February or March [she] did something like this or like that, and this action is an infraction,” said Dadje.

Supporters of the Ivorian administration say Mrs. Gbagbo has to be held accountable for her role in her husband’s refusal to peacefully handover power after losing the October 2010 presidential vote.

The election dispute, they say, led to the post-election violence that created ethnic and religious tension across the country.

Dadje said the government has no proof of the former first lady’s complicity in the conflict.

“We have been waiting for these [charges] for three years. Now both international and local [observers] will see the reality of these [charges]. There is nothing against Madame Gbagbo, and I will ask the judge to release [her]. She can’t stay in jail for the three years for nothing,” said Dadje.

Human rights groups accused supporters of both Gbagbo and current President Alassane Ouattara of human rights violations during the conflict.

Two leading members of the country’s former ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) also face trial alongside Mrs. Gbagbo. This prompted opposition supporters to claim the party is being persecuted by the current administration. They contend that rights groups accused both sides of committing human rights violations during the conflict, but only supporters of Gbagbo face prosecution.

Government officials deny singling out supporters of Gbagbo for prosecution.