Prosecutors demand life sentence for ex-first lady Gbagbo

A picture taken on June 30, 2016 shows Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo being surrounded by her lawyers as she attends her trial at the appeal court in Abidjan, where she faces allegations of crimes against prisoners of war, crimes against the civilian population and crimes against humanity. / AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO

Prosecutors on Tuesday demanded a life jail term for Ivory Coast’s former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, who is on trial for alleged crimes against humanity.

“Gentlemen of the jury, you will declare Madame Gbagbo guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes and sentence her to life imprisonment,” prosecutor Aly Yeo urged in his summing up at the country’s top criminal court.

He described her as a shadowy figure who orchestrated attacks on her husband’s opponents.

“After her spouse came to power, she started to impose herself as the real head of Ivory Coast, the army, the police and gendarmerie,” Yeo said.

Gbagbo, the 67-year-old wife of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, was not in court as the jury retired to consider a verdict expected later Tuesday.

Once dubbed Ivory Coast’s “Iron Lady,” Simone Gbagbo is already serving a 20-year sentence for “endangering state security.”

Laurent Gbagbo is on trial for crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and persecution, having been handed over in November 2011 to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

The ICC also wanted to prosecute his wife and issued a warrant for her arrest, but Ivorian authorities refused to hand her over, insisting she would receive a fair trial at home.

Some 3,000 people died in five months of unrest in the cocoa-rich west African republic after Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept the result of presidential elections in 2010.

Yeo said Simone Gbagbo headed a crisis cell — “a genuine decision-making body” that allegedly coordinated attacks by armed forces and pro-Gbagbo militias.

The evidence came from documents found in at the home of the presidential couple when the pair were arrested on September 11, 2011, he said.

“She replied to correspondence from arms dealers offering weapons and combat helicopters,” said Yeo.

She is accused of distributing arms to militias backing her husband following his election defeat.

In one case, she allegedly played an indirect role in the shelling of a market in Abobo, a Ouattara stronghold in the capital Abidjan, in November 2010.

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