Former Ivorian rebel leader and politician, Guillaume Soro, has been convicted in absentia for embezzlement and sentenced to 20 years in jail, a verdict that will most likely exclude him from contesting in October’s general election.
The former prime minister, who is in exile in France, was billed to run in this year’s general election. He was also fined $7.6 million.
The verdict, announced after a trial that lasted only a few hours, was boycotted by Soro’s lawyers who claim the charges were politically motivated. Prior to the trial, Soro had denied all the charges leveled against him.
At the time the warrant was issued, Soro was reportedly on his way to the capital Abidjan when his plane was diverted to Ghana. Currently living in France, Soro said the state is preventing him from contesting against Prime Minister, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, who is Outtara’s preferred successor.
In an interview with a French weekly in December, Soro vowed to lead the “resistance” from abroad “like de Gaulle”, referring to the French wartime resistance leaders.
“I consider the verdict to be a non-event,” Soro said in a statement. “I maintain my presidential candidacy and ask my supporters to remain mobilized.”
The court also ordered that Soro be barred from his civic duties for five years and his property in the capital, Abidjan have been confiscated.
Soro served as prime minister and speaker of parliament under Ouattara. It is believed the two men fell out after Soro declared his intention to run for president against Coulibaly.