Ivory Coast prosecution hands 26 opposition figures jail terms

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Twenty-six supporters of Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo have received two-year jail terms on public order charges related to an anti-government protest last month.

Thirty-one people were arrested after the February 24 protest in support of Damana Pickass, secretary general of the African Peoples’ Party (PPA-CI), who is under investigation for his alleged role in an attack on an Abidjan barracks in 2021.

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All but one of the 27 in court late Thursday were sentenced to jail, with one acquitted.

The prosecution had called for three-year sentences.

Defense lawyer Jonas Zadi said there would be an appeal.

“The concept of public order is a kind of catch-all,” he said.

PPA-CI spokesman Justin Kone Katinan last week accused the authorities of manipulating the justice system for political ends against opposition forces.

Ivory Coast was thrust into a political crisis in 2020 when Alassane Ouattara won a controversial third presidential term.

Election-related violence saw 85 deaths and some 500 injured.

But legislative polls which ensued a year later passed off calmly, and Gbagbo and his former right-hand man Charles Ble Goude returned home following their acquittal on human rights charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Gbagbo after his return abandoned the party he had founded, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), and launched the PPA-CI, a leftwing pan-African group.

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