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Ivory Coast Officers Face Trial

July 12, 2001

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) _ A military tribunal will try eight paramilitary policemen accused of killing dozens of young men whose bodies were found dumped in an Abidjan field, Ivory Coast’s military prosecutor said Thursday.

The bodies were discovered during the days of violence that followed October’s presidential election, which brought President Laurent Gbagbo to power.

The election, meant to restore civilian rule after a December 1999 military coup in the West African nation, was called flawed by international observers, with the main opposition candidate barred from running.

Alassane Dramane Ouattara’s exclusion from the presidential vote and later parliamentary elections sparked clashes between his mostly northern, Muslim supporters, and Gbagbo’s largely southern, Christian followers.

Ouattara’s followers have said the 57 bodies found in the field were northern Muslims and supporters of Ouattara’s Rally of the Republicans party, and have alleged that the killings were politically motivated. Most of the men had been shot in the head.

The trial will begin July 26, military prosecutor Ange Kessy said.

Six police officers had initially been charged in the massacre, but another two were charged more recently, Kessy said. All eight remain free pending trial.

International rights groups have sharply criticized Ivorian authorities for the slowness of their investigation into the killings.

The Paris-based Federation of International Human Rights Leagues has been especially critical of the government’s decision not to detain those charged.

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