The 46 Ivorian soldiers suspected of being "mercenaries" and detained in Mali since July are being tried Thursday at the Court of Appeal in Bamako.
Their appearance comes in the run-up to a January 1rst deadline set by West African leaders for Mali to release the troops or face sanctions.
The Ivorian soldiers were arrested in Mali on July 10th and charged in mid-August with "attempting to undermine the external security of the state". Three of them, all women were later released.
Abidjan and the UN say the troops were flown in to provide routine backup security for the German contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.
A week ago, an official Ivorian delegation met with Malian authorities in a "fraternal" atmosphere and the Ivorian Defense Minister assured that the case was "in the process of being resolved".
"After the case was investigated by the military justice system, we have registered it for referral to a special trial without a public hearing" on Thursday, a deputy at the Bamako court of appeal told AFP. "What we need to remember is that the Bamako court of appeal will try the 46 Ivorian soldiers arrested on 10 July 2022 at Bamako airport with weapons," he added.
For the crime targeted by the Malian justice system, the 46 Ivorian soldiers face a criminal sentence of ten to twenty years.
This heavy sentence, if brought against the soldiers, could further aggravate relations between Bamako and Abidjan.
The possibility of a presidential pardon has been raised by some sources.
If they are found guilty of the charges against them, the Ivorian soldiers could benefit from the clemency of Mali's transition head, Assimi Goita.