A court in Mali on Friday sentenced 46 Ivory Coast soldiers to 20 years in prison and three others to death in absentia for conspiring against the government.
49 Ivorian soldiers were arrested at the airport in Mali’s capital Bamako in July, three of whom were later released. Their arrests sparked a diplomatic row between neighboring countries and widespread condemnation from regional allies.
Mali’s ruling junta said the soldiers were acting as mercenaries, while Ivory Coast said they were part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
They were accused of attempting to undermine state security in August and convicted in a trial that began Thursday and ended Friday ahead of a January court hearing. 1 deadline set by West Africa’s main political and economic bloc to release them or face sanctions.
Ivory Coast said its troops were being held hostage and has repeatedly asked for their release. The country announced last month that it would withdraw its remaining soldiers from the UN peacekeeping mission.
Mali, one of Africa’s most volatile countries, has relied on regional allies and peacekeepers for the past decade to contain Islamist insurgents that have killed thousands and seized large areas in central and northern regions.
© Thomson Reuters 2022.