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Ivory Coast Former First Lady Goes on Trial as Supporters Cry Harassment

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

In Ivory Coast, the wife of former President Laurent Gbagbo goes on trial Tuesday. Simone Gbagbo, also known as the “Iron Lady”, is accused of crimes against humanity, prisoners of war, and the civilian population for her alleged role in that country’s 2010 post-election violence that killed more than 3,000 people.

She already has been handed a 20 year jail sentence for "attacking state authority."

Her husband, former President Laurent Gbagbo and his former youth minister Charles Ble Goude, are currently on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, for their alleged roles in the 2010 post-election violence aimed at keeping the former president in office after he lost the election to current president Alassane Ouattara.

Meanwhile, human rights groups acting as plaintiffs in Mrs. Gbagbo’s trial Monday, withdrew from the case, saying their lawyers had not had access to all stages of the procedures.

Boubacar Kone, interim spokesman of the Ivorian Popular Front Party, said Mrs. Gbagbo is not guilty of any crime, and the case against her is political and judicial harassment.

“Obviously this is seen as a total harassment. It is both political and judicial harassment. Mr. Gbagbo is being tried in The Hague; his wife is also being harassed here as well as his own son, but the facts are not there. Mrs. Gbagbo is not guilty of whatever crime she’s being charged with. This is why I say it is just harassment, pure harassment,” he said.

President Ouattara announced in February that he was no longer going to send any more Ivoirians to the ICC because he said Ivory Coast now has “an operational justice system”.

But Kone said President Ouattara is trying to neutralize mounting international demands for some of his supporters to also be prosecuted by the ICC.

"My understanding is that Ouattara doesn’t want reconciliation and that he is just simply trying to protect his own people from being prosecuted by the ICC because people around the world have been critical about the ICC being unfair because they are investigating only one side of the conflict,” Kone said.

Kone said Gbagbo cannot get justice.

“The trial is definitely and absolutely unfair in the sense that even the judges are under terrible pressure to do everything that is being said, and they are not reading the law. In criminal law, the facts must be easily verifiable, but Mrs. Gbagbo is not guilty of anything she’s charged with,” he said.

Kone said Gbagbo could never have committed the acts for which she is being charged.

Kone said he and others will be at the court to support Gbagbo.