Former first lady of Ivory Coast Simone Gbagbo’s trial for crimes against humanity may proceed without her, judge Boiqui Kouadjo ruled Wednesday following her failure to appear in court.
A row over high-profile witnesses has hobbled proceedings against Simone, wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo who was forced from power in 2011 by forces loyal to the incumbent Alassane Ouattara.
Her lawyers have however protested the ruling saying the trial cannot continue unless witnesses including parliament’s speaker, a former prime minister and a former army chief appear. The three have failed to turn up at previous hearings.
Ange Rodrigue Dadjé, one of the lawyers says: “If Ms. Gbagbo’s defense does not participate in this trial, then this trial is no longer credible. If Ms. Gbagbo does not attend the trial, the trial is no longer credible.”
“We are asking for redress for the serious faults of the Ivorian judiciary, which has never heard the actors of the crimes. How can one conclude that it was Mrs. Gbagbo who sent the actors, when the actors of the crimes have never said whether it was madam Gbagbo who sent them?” He continued.
Simone Gbagbo who is already serving a 20-year sentence for endangering state security, is accused of involvement in the shelling of Abobo, a northern suburb of the capital Abidjan, which was a Ouattara stronghold, and of being a member of a “crisis cell” that allegedly coordinated attacks by the armed forces and militias in support of Gbagbo.