CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-Ivory Coast's former first lady cleared of war crimes

Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:29pm GMT

(Corrects spelling of name in penultimate paragraph to Soungalo from Soungaola; moves up first full reference to President Alassane Ouattara, paragraph 4)

By Loucoumane Coulibaly

ABIDJAN, March 28 (Reuters) - A court in Ivory Coast acquitted former First Lady Simone Gbagbo of crimes against humanity and war crimes charges linked to her role in a 2011 civil war that killed about 3,000 people, state television announced on Tuesday.

The trial, the West African nation's first for crimes against humanity, was held in an Ivorian court after the government rejected her extradition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Gbagbo, who has often been absent from the trial on complaints of poor health, was not present for the verdict.

Her husband, ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, is standing trial before the ICC on similar charges connected to the brief conflict, which was triggered by his refusal to accept defeat to Alassane Ouattara in a 2010 presidential run-off election.

"We are happy. Since the start of the trial we proclaimed her innocence. The prosecution's case against her was empty," her lawyer Mathurin Dirabou told Reuters after the verdict was announced.

But Human Rights Watch said the judgement left "unanswered serious questions about her alleged role in brutal crimes."

"The acquittal ... reflects the many irregularities in the process against her," Param-Preet Singh, Associate Director in Human Rights Watch’s International Justice program, said.   Continued...

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