IVORY COAST – Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo (pictured) said Thursday her husband Laurent Gbagbo would have hit her if she had suggested in 2010 that he should step down to avoid bloodshed.
On the third day of her trial for crimes against humanity in Abidjan, Gbagbo was asked by presiding judge Bouakhi Kouadio why she hadn’t asked her husband to cede power when he refused to admit electoral defeat.
“He was the winner,” the former first lady told the court.
“He would have slapped me” if I’d tried to persuade him to give up power, she added.
The decision by Laurent Gbagbo not to recognise the victory of his rival Alassane Ouattara triggered a post-election crisis which cost the lives of more than 3,000 people in five months.
The former president is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes linked to the unrest that followed his refusal to step down.
The influential and hated former first lady has often been accused of strongly supporting her husband’s bid to cling to power and of links to the death squads of Gbagbo supporters.
On Thursday she also defended the role played by the “Young Patriots” youth militia which her husband used to at times to bolster his strength by organising riots.
“The patriots did useful work in Ivory Coast. Ivorians should say thank you,” Gbagbo said, adding that she was “shocked when they are accused of abuses”.
Gbagbo, nicknamed the Ivory coast’s “Iron Lady”, denied ever having seen the Young Patriots carrying arms and confessed ignorance as to how the movement was funded in 2010-2011.
“I attended their rallies… but I was not their financier,” she said.
Young Patriots moment leader Charles Ble Goude, is on trial with Laurent Gbagbo in The Hague.
On Wednesday Simone Gbagbo 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, 66, denies charges of crimes against prisoners of war, crimes against the civilian population and crimes against humanity.
Several human rights groups representing victims have pulled out of the legal proceedings, saying the case against her was flawed and too hastily organised.