Mali court sentences 46 Ivorian soldiers to 20 years in prison for conspiracy against govt

© Sia Kambou, AFP

A court in Mali has sentenced 46 Ivorian troops whose detention in Mali sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries to 20 years in prison, the public prosecutor said Friday.

Three women soldiers among the original group detained in July, and who were freed in early September, were sentenced to death in absentia.

The trial of the 46 Ivorian troops had wrapped up earlier on Friday after opening in the capital Bamako on Thursday.

The court proceedings came in the run-up to a January 1 deadline set by West African leaders for Mali to release the soldiers or face sanctions.

The Ivorians were found guilty of an "attack and conspiracy against the government" and seeking to undermine state security, public prosecutor Ladji Sara said in a statement.

The court proceedings were held behind closed doors and under heavy security, an AFP journalist noted.

Forty-nine troops from Ivory Coast were detained after they arrived at Bamako airport on July 10. Three of them, all women, were later freed.

Those remaining, branded by Mali's junta as "mercenaries", were charged the following month with seeking to undermine state security.

Ivory Coast and the United Nations say the troops were flown in to provide routine backup security for the German contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

The row escalated in September, when diplomatic sources in the region said Mali wanted Ivory Coast to acknowledge its responsibility and express regret for deploying the soldiers.


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