Charles Ble-Goude, an ally of former Cote d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo, has been sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison by a court in Abidjan, for his role in the civil war.
The civil war followed the 2010 presidential election, his lawyers said.
Ble-Goude headed the notorious Young Patriots street militia during Gbagbo’s presidency.
Gbagbo and Ble-Goude were acquitted in January by the International Criminal Court (ICC), in The Hague, of charges of crimes against humanity during the violence, in which some 3,000 people were killed.
But Ivorian prosecutors this month brought charges against Ble-Goude, who has remained in Europe while ICC prosecutors appeal against the acquittals – for rape, torture and other crimes following his role in the conflict.
Ble-Goude, who was extradited by Cote d’Ivoire to the ICC in 2014, however, denied the charges.
Political tensions are rising in Cote d’Ivoire ahead of an October 2020 presidential election.
President Alassane Ouattara, whose victory over Gbagbo in 2010 sparked the civil war, is expected to step down after 10 years in office, but he has refused to rule out running for re-election.
Ble-Goude’s lawyer in the Netherlands, Geert-Jan Knoops, said on Tuesday that the Ivorian court convicted his client on Monday.
“I am quite astonished that a country that is supposed to cooperate with the ICC is not respecting the system.
“Once a case is before the ICC, the domestic courts should abstain from prosecution for the same facts,’’ Knoops said.
His lawyer in Cote d’Ivoire, Ndry Claver, said a warrant had been issued for Ble-Goude’s arrest and an official at the court in Abidjan confirmed the sentence.
A government spokesman, was however, not immediately available for comment.
Gbabgo also remains in Europe pending the ICC appeal.
If he is able to return to Cote d’Ivoire in time, he could contest the presidency, a move that Ouattara said would make him rethink plans to step down. (Reuters/NAN)