Arusha, March 10, 2015 (FH) – An Abidjan court has sentenced former Ivorian First Lady Simone Gabgbo to 20 years in jail, whereas the prosecutor had only asked for 10 years. She was charged with crimes committed during post-election violence in 2010-2011, including undermining state security.

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The Court “unanimously sentences” Simone Gabgbo to 20 years in prison for “undermining state security, participating in an insurrectional movement and disturbing public order”, declared Judge Tahirou Dembelé in the early hours of Tuesday, after the jury had deliberated for more than 9 hours.

The verdict was pronounced after midnight in a courtroom that had been emptied of members of the public, “for security reasons” according to the prosecutor.

Rodrigue Dadjé, one of Mrs. Gbagbo’s lawyers, called the judgment “a purely political decision”. “I am ashamed for the Ivorian justice system,” he told Agence France Presse.

But Soungalo Coulibaly, a lawyer for the Ivorian State, said this showed that “impunity must not continue in Côte d'Ivoire”.

This collective trial began in December 2014. Simone Gbagbo and 78 others formerly close to her husband Laurent Gbagbo were tried for their role in the 2010-2011 post-election crisis, which started when Laurent Gbagbo refused to recognize the victory of current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara in November 2010 presidential elections.

Pascal Affi N'Guessan, the contested head of the Ivorian Popular Front (Front populaire ivoirien, FPI, Laurent Gbagbo’s party) who wants to run for presidential elections in October this year, got an 18-month suspended sentence. This is covered by the two years he has already spent in provisional detention.

Michel Gbagbo, son of former president Gbagbo from a previous marriage with a Frenchwoman, was sentenced to five years in jail.

Simone was born in 1949, daughter of a policeman, and is said to be a regularly practising evangelical Christian. She has pursued careers as a historian, a linguist and trade union activist, before becoming the political figure that she remains today, even behind bars.

In 1990, she participated alongside her husband in the founding of the future FPI party. After Laurent Gbagbo became president in October 2000, she found herself at the heart of the country’s decision making.

But on April 11, 2011, Simone and Laurent Gbagbo were arrested in Abidjan.  At the end of November, the husband was transferred to The Hague in accordance with an ICC arrest warrant.

On February 29, 2012, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Simone Gbagbo, which was unsealed in November the same year. Up to now, Côte d’Ivoire has refused to hand Simone Gbagbo over to the ICC, saying it has both the will and the capacity to guarantee her a fair trial before a national court for the same crimes cited by the ICC. It has not managed to convince the ICC judges. In a December 11, 2014 decision, the ICC once again ordered the Ivorian authorities to transfer Simone Gbagbo to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts committed in Côte d'Ivoire between December 16, 2010 and April 12, 2011.