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Ivory Coast: Defence calls for dismissal of case against four suspects in the Grand-Bassam attack

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Ivory Coast

A defence lawyer in the trial of a 2016 machine-gun assault on a beach resort in Ivory Coast that killed 19 people on Thursday urged the prosecution to "produce evidence" of the guilt of the accused, after a state prosecutor demanded a life sentence for the four defendants present at a trial.

Eric Saki, defence lawyer for the accused argued for the dismissal of the case against the accuse in Ivory coast's deadliest jihadist attack. 

"You noted during the debates that we conducted that there were defendants who had been dismissed. That is to say, they should not even have been brought before the criminal court, but they ended up before the criminal court. Why did this happen? We were therefore obliged to say, on the basis of the provisions of Article 237 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, that (certain defendants, ed) therefore benefited from the partial dismissal order." Saki told the court.

On Wednesday an Ivory Coast prosecutor urged life in jail for four suspects over one of West Africa's bloodiest jihadist attacks -- a 2016 machine-gun assault on a beach resort that killed 19.

State prosecutor Richard Adou demanded a life sentence for the four defendants present at a trial that started last month over the attack, saying it would be "an exemplary and dissuasive punishment".

He also asked for life for 14 other suspects being tried in absentia, including the suspected masterminds of the assault.

They are either on the run or being held in neighbouring Mali. All 18 stand accused of acts of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, criminal concealment, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition "and complicity in these deeds".

The verdict is expected on Thursday.

On March 13, 2016, three men wielding assault rifles attacked Grand-Bassam, a tourist complex popular with foreigners that lies 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the capital Abidjan.

In an operation echoing a jihadist massacre the previous year in Tunisia, the trio stormed the beach and then attacked several hotels and restaurants.

The 45-minute bloodbath ended when Ivorian security forces shot dead the three attackers.

Al-Qaeda's North African affiliate, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility the same day.

The four actually present in court are suspected of being accomplices in the assault, including by helping its masterminds to gather information before it.

The 19 people killed included nine Ivorians, four French citizens, a Lebanese, a German, a Macedonian, a Malian, a Nigerian and a person who could not be identified.

The beach resort assault had a deeply chilling impact on foreign tourism, an important money-spinner in an economy battered by a post-election conflict in 2010-11 that claimed 3,000 lives.

In January 2017, members of France's Barkhane anti-jihadist force captured a key suspect, Mimi Ould Baba Ould Cheikh.

He is described by Ivory Coast investigators as one of the instigators of the Grand-Bassam attack and by Burkina Faso as the "operation leader" in an assault on the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou in January 2016 that claimed 30 lives.

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