The Abidjan Assize Court acquitted the former First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, Simone Gbagbo, on Tuesday. She has been tried for nearly ten months for crimes against humanity during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis.
” The majority jury declares Simone Gbagbo not guilty of the crimes charged, pronounces her acquittal and orders her to be released immediately if she is detained for other causes, ” said Judge Kouadjo Boiqui, President of the Assize Court.
This verdict was pronounced by a majority of the six civil jury, after seven hours of deliberation. A veritable coup de théâtre both since the beginning of the trial in May the civil party and the public prosecutor seemed sure of their facts concerning the documents delivered to the file of accusation which had to testify of the guilt of the wife of Laurent Gbagbo.
Documents of the testimonies which they said left no room for doubt as to the role of warlord as patroness of the soldiers and militia pro Gbagbo who allegedly committed the exactions at the bombed Abobo market or against the pro-Ouattara protesters of the RTI machine-gunned .
The accusation stigmatized the involvement in a crisis cell of Simone Gbagbo described by her detractors as a woman ” vindictive, spiteful and hateful “. But this is not the portrait of a psychologist and a reputation that makes one guilty. And in the eyes of many observers who followed this trial, the case file was weak, too weak, to allow a jury to confidently pronounce a prison sentence for life demanded by the prosecutor.
Simone Gbagbo is thus laundered of the crimes of which it is accused but not released yet. Since two years ago, before the same Assize Court in Abidjan, she had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for breaching the security of the State.
The defense thanks the Court of Assizes
One of the accused’s lawyers, Rodrigue Dadje, who for several weeks had been boycotting the assizes, welcomed the verdict, saying that the conditions of ” fairness and transparency ” were not gathered in this trial . ” The environment of the trial did not reassure us. One, the human rights organizations have decided not to participate in this trial. Two, the defense lawyers decided to withdraw because the judge did not want to put the actors at the disposal of the justice to have their version of the facts. Three, lawyers assigned to the bar independently have decided to withdraw. So the conditions of the trial were not serene and fair. ”
Faced with this situation, he thanked ” the courage ” of the decision taken on Tuesday: ” The Court of Assizes caught up at the end in making an acquittal decision which for us was normality, we say thank you To the Assize Court to have had this courage because it is not evident under the African democracies to undergo the pressure of power and to make such a decision. ”
For the Attorney-General, who had asked for perpetuity, it is necessary to recall that ” it is a popular jury, persons who are not specialists of the law.
So what is asked of them is the intimate conviction that they have as to what is being blamed on the accused. It was their feeling, their emotion that was demanded. And so the feeling, the emotion spoke and felt that she was not guilty of these two offenses. ”
The prosecutor also believes that this verdict is a political message. ” Perhaps also they wanted to send a strong signal to the politicians for reconciliation, saying perhaps this was the quickest way to bring about reconciliation. In any case, the trial was held, and that was the verdict. ”
But for the collective of the victims, ” it is the sadness and the desolation for the victims in Cote d’Ivoire ” says Issiaka Diaby, the president of the collective. ” Côte d’Ivoire has just demonstrated that it has neither the capacity nor the will to re-establish the victims in indignity.
We immediately call for the execution of the arrest warrant against Simone Gbagbo and we will meet again at the ICC to have this case settled once and for all . ”
Axadle International Monitoring – Africa