Former general in Ivory Coast jailed for hotel murders

General Brunot Dogbo Ble (first row, 2nd R), former commander of the Ivorian Republican Guard, and his former second in command, Abi Jean (first row, 3rd R), in Yopougon on April 11, 2017 during their murder trial with eight others. Photo: ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

ABIDJAN - A court in Ivory Coast has handed a former top general 18 years behind bars in connection with the abduction and murder of four foreigners from the Novotel hotel in 2011.

The four -- two Frenchmen, a Malaysian and a Benin national -- were snatched from the hotel in Ivory Coast's economic capital, Abidjan, at the height of a post-election crisis.

They were taken to the presidential palace, where they were "tortured and savagely beaten before being killed", according to the prosecution.

The ruling was handed down on Thursday following a two-month trial involving 10 suspects.

Those involved were forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, a former president who refused to step down after losing a November 2010 election.

READ: Ivory Coast prosecutors demand life sentence for ex-first lady Gbagbo

Among the victims were the hotel's French manager, Stephane Frantz di Rippel, and his compatriot Yves Lambelin, the head of Ivory Coast's largest agro-industrial group. The other two were also businessmen.

A month later, two corpses were found in Abidjan's lagoon, one Lambelin, who appeared to have been executed with a bullet to the head, with a medical report showing multiple fractures to the limbs, the prosecution said.

Ten men were put on trial over the killings, five of whom were charged with abduction and murder.

General Brunot Dogbo Ble, a Gbagbo loyalist who used to head the Republican Guard, was sentenced to 18 years behind bars alongside his two deputies, while police chief Osee Loguey was sentenced to 20 years.

Two others were jailed for six and 10 years, while the remaining four were acquitted.

"The verdict was exactly what we wanted: the chain of command was recognised as responsible," Pierre-Olivier Sur, lawyer for the families of the French victims, told AFP.

Despite the trial, the prosecution was unable to discover the location of the other victims' bodies.

In 2012, Dogbo Ble -- a key figure in Gbagbo's regime -- was handed a life sentence for complicity in the murder of a retired officer, and in 2015, he was handed another 20 years for his role in the 2010-2011 violence.

AFP

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