Ivory Coast ex-first lady claims she suffered rape attempt

AFP , Wednesday 1 Jun 2016

Simone Gbagbo
Ivory Coast's former first lady Simone Gbagbo looks on the second day of her trial on June 1, 2016, at the appeal court in Abidjan. (AFP PHOTO)

Ivory Coast's former first lady Simone Gbagbo on Wednesday rejected a court's charges of crimes against humanity during a 2010 wave of violence, claiming she suffered attempted rape in detention.

"I stand before this court on demand of the government and for crimes that I did not commit," Gbagbo said as her trial went into its second day.

"I am accused of facts that have not been proven. And not only that -- I am accused of direct involvement," she said, wearing a violet scarf around her shoulders.

The wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo, nicknamed Ivory Coast's "Iron Lady", also said she suffered a rape attempt when she and her husband were arrested on April 11, 2011.

She also claimed French soldiers deployed in Ivory Coast filmed the attempted rape.

Simone Gbagbo is accused of planning and organising rights abuses against supporters of her husband's presidential rival to try to keep him in power at any cost.

Gbagbo was finally defeated at the polls however and is currently also facing trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

More than 3,000 people died in the nation in bloody post-poll violence which petered out only after the arrest of the Gbagbo couple in 2011, when troops stormed the bunker where they had taken refuge in the nation's main city, Abidjan.

Simone Gbagbo faces allegations of crimes against prisoners of war, crimes against the civilian population and crimes against humanity.

She denies the accusations, while several human rights groups have pulled out of the process over doubts of its "credibility".

She lashed out at her husband's rival -- now president of Ivory Coast -- of instigating the 2010 bloodshed.

"The post-election crisis was born from the refusal of Alassane Ouattara, with the help of French authorities, to respect the constitution of Ivory Coast," she claimed.

"Personally, I arrived at the Golf hotel (Ouattara's headquarters) with my buttocks exposed, naked, and I suffered several attempts to rape me in broad daylight ... and all this in the presence of French soldiers who were filming this," she said.

When she was arrested, the former first lady was manhandled and forced to appear in photographs that showed her dress torn at the shoulder.

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