Pardon possible for Ivory Coast's 'Iron Lady' Gbagbo

Ivory Coast may pardon former first lady Simone Gbagbo in a gesture of national reconciliation after she was sentenced to 20 years behind bars over deadly post-election violence.

AFP| Last Updated: Mar 11, 2015, 00:10 AM IST

Abidjan: Ivory Coast may pardon former first lady Simone Gbagbo in a gesture of national reconciliation after she was sentenced to 20 years behind bars over deadly post-election violence.

With her husband -- ex-president Laurent Gbagbo -- still awaiting trial on crimes against humanity charges and no rival leaders prosecuted over the 2010-2011 violence that killed nearly 3,000 people, Simone Gbagbo's hefty sentence has provoked complaints the verdict smacked of "victor's justice".

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara raised the possibility of a pardon in January, as Simone Gbagbo's trial was under way for "undermining state security".

"Once the verdict is in, obviously the head of state has a certain amount of authority in terms of pardons and amnesty to propose to the National Assembly," he said.

And a source close to Ouattara told AFP Tuesday: "The president said it, he will do it."

Discussions have already been held between the government and the pro-Gbagbo Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) about granting the former first lady some type of amnesty, said FPI leader Alphonse Douati.

Simone Gbagbo, 65, and 82 fellow defendants were accused of playing roles in violence that broke out in Abidjan when Laurent Gbagbo refused to admit defeat in the December 2010 election.

The vanquished regime allegedly used brutal militias to attack supporters of the declared winner of the poll, Ouattara, but some of his backers are equally accused of atrocities.

Until now no pro-Ouattara leaders have been prosecuted or investigated for their roles in the violence, raising accusations the trial of Simone Gbagbo was an example of "victor's justice."

"What is the purpose of sentencing someone to 20 years in prison as we extol reconciliation?" asked defence lawyer Mathurin Dirabou.

"Now, if Mr Ouattara takes himself for a Caesar, who can raise or lower his thumb to save a convict, it's his problem," said another of the ex-first lady's lawyers Habiba Toure.

"This shows that democracy does not exist in Ivory Coast, where the criminal justice system is being exploited," she added.

Ivory Coast, however, has refused to extradite Simone Gbagbo to face charges of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where her husband is awaiting trial on similar allegations.

The government has declined to transfer her over concerns about the impact it could have on national reconciliation.