Former Ivory Coast first lady Simone Gbagbo, 65, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after being found guilty of “undermining state security” following the 2010-2011 general elections that saw Ivory Coast go up in flames in the post election violence that left almost 3,000 people dead.
Opposition rival Alassen Outtara was announced the winner in the December 2010 elections but Laurent Gbagbo, her husband, came out disputing the results. In charges read to Simone Gbagbo, she was accused of organizing armed gangs to cause disruption and violence during the period. She was also accused of disrupting public order.
A day before her sentencing, the former first lady was given a chance to give her testimony in which she asked questions to the witnesses who said had seen her distributing arms to gangs in Abidjan during the violence.
“I have suffered humiliation during this trial. But am ready to forgive, because if we do not forgive, the country faces a crisis worse than what we experienced.”
In a statement to the court, Court President Tahirou Dembele said the court unanimously condemned her to 20 years in jail. The sentence was twice as long what the prosecutors had asked for.
Speaking to journalists, Gbagbo’s daughter claimed the sentence was unfair.
“Why would you want to double it? It’s not about justice; it’s about getting rid of political adversaries. If we say that something wrong happened, it happened on both sides. Nobody looked into bringing all responsible parties to trial.”
As the sentence was being read, Simone Gbagbo’s seemed aloof as to the fate set upon her. Her lawyers however said that they would appeal the sentence.
The Ivorian government had earlier dismissed a warrant of arrest against Mrs. Gbagbo issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Former president Laurent Gbagbo’s son Michel was also given a 5 year prison sentence for his role in violence. Laurent Gbagbo is facing four charges at the ICC which include murder, rape and persecution