Ivory Coast's ex 'Iron Lady', Simone Gbagbo, on trial

Ivory Coast's former first lady Simone Gbagbo went on trial on Friday for "attempting to undermine the security of the state" in events leading to a bloody 2010-2011 crisis that left thousands dead.

AFP| Updated: Dec 27, 2014, 00:04 AM IST

Abidjan: Ivory Coast's former first lady Simone Gbagbo went on trial on Friday for "attempting to undermine the security of the state" in events leading to a bloody 2010-2011 crisis that left thousands dead.

Gbagbo, who has been held for three years and is also wanted by an international court for crimes against humanity, entered the Abidjan court where she is standing trial with 82 others, to cheers and applause from the public.

The 65-year-old wife of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, dressed in yellow and with her hair plaited, took a front seat before the judge next to her husband's last prime minister and party chief Pascal Affi N'Guessan.

Outside, riot police deployed around the building and officers body-searched people entering the courthouse.

All 77 men and six women were charged "with undermining national defence, setting up armed groups, taking part in an insurrection movement, disturbing the public order" as well as "tribalism" and "xenophobia", said state prosecutor Simeon Yabo Odi.

He pledged the trial would be "fair and transparent." A six-member jury, including three women, was sworn in and the hearing suspended until Monday.

The trial is viewed as the biggest judicial challenge faced by the post-crisis government of the west African nation.

Nicknamed the "Iron Lady", Gbagbo is being tried for her role in events leading to months of post-election violence that left some 3,000 people dead and badly rattled the economy of the prosperous cocoa-producing nation.

Violence broke out in Ivory Coast in 2010 when Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to his rival Alassane Ouattara, who was declared the winner of a presidential poll.

Laurent Gbagbo himself has been held for three years in The Hague facing charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC). But Ivory Coast has repeatedly refused to hand his wife over to the ICC on the same charge.

The presidential couple were arrested April 11, 2011 after five months of fierce fighting following a final push by French forces against their residence.

Pictures at the time showed the once-powerful wife, a leading political figure accused of links with anti-Ouattara "death squads", haggard, fearful and unkempt, her usually stylish hair a mess.

Simone Gbagbo had been held under house arrest in Odienne in the northwest of the country since April 2011 but was transferred to the economic capital, Abidjan, on December 1 ahead of the trial, where she is being held in a military school.