Ivory Coast's ICC-indicted former first lady in hospital

ABIDJAN Thu May 2, 2013 2:10pm EDT

Simone, wife of Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo, is seen at Hotel Golf in Abidjan, after she was arrested with her husband, April 11, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer

Simone, wife of Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo, is seen at Hotel Golf in Abidjan, after she was arrested with her husband, April 11, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's former first lady, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, was rushed to hospital on Thursday with an unspecified ailment, her lawyer and an official from her political party said.

Simone Gbagbo was a leading figure in her husband Laurent's FPI party while he was president of Ivory Coast. The pair were arrested in 2011 after months of armed conflict that followed a disputed presidential election the year before.

Simone Gbagbo, 63, is being held in Ivory Coast on accusations of genocide but also last year became the first woman indicted by the ICC. Laurent Gbagbo is already in The Hague awaiting trial on charges linked to the conflict.

"The (health) problems were sufficiently serious to require her immediate transfer to a facility with the sufficient means to treat her," her lawyer Habiba Toure told Reuters, declining to elaborate.

Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to accept defeat to Alassane Ouattara in the 2010 election kindled violence that killed 3,000 people in the world's top cocoa-growing state before French and U.N.-backed pro-Ouattara fighters captured the Gbagbos.

The ICC warrant against Simone alleges she was "criminally responsible for murder, rape, other forms of sexual violence, other inhumane acts and persecution" during the conflict.

Ouattara's government has yet to announce whether it will hand over Simone, who has been held in the isolated town of Odienne since her arrest. Toure said "a total lack of medical attention" during her confinement had damaged her health.

Information Minister and government spokesman Bruno Kone said there was nothing abnormal about her detention.

"When you are in custody, it's not a five-star hotel... Every time she gets a cold you can't go and say it's linked to her detention conditions," Kone said.

None of Ouattara's own supporters have yet been arrested for crimes during the post-election violence, although rights groups say there is evidence they too committed atrocities.

(Reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; Additional reporting by Ange Aboa; Editing by David Lewis)

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