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. Defence lawyers threaten to stop Ivory Coast pollution trial

A total of 12 people have been charged with involvement in the 2006 toxic waste scandal which killed 17 Ivorians and poisoned thousands. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Abidjan (AFP) Oct 9, 2008
The trial of nine people accused over the dumping of toxic waste off Ivory Coast's main city, killing 17 people, faced collapse Thursday as the defence threatened a permanent boycott alleging bias.

Speaking at a press conference, defence lawyers refused to participate in the trial unless the judge grants a delay in the evidence of a key witness.

Lawyers for five of the nine defendants said the testimony of N'Zi Kablan, the head of Puma Energy, a subsidiary of Dutch company Trafigura, which shipped in the waste, was crucial for "the truth to come out."

On Wednesday the judge suspended the trial until October 13 when the lawyers walked out in protest after he refused to grant a delay to call witnesses from the two companies.

According to Ivory Coast law, a trial cannot take place if defendants are not represented by a lawyer.

"This position is not negotiable. We do not want to be complicit in a biased form of justice," said lawyer Charles Kignima, adding that the defendants "are prepared to stay in prison without trial" until Kablan appears in court.

"It is an abuse of justice in our country. It was the moment for judges in Ivory Coast to raise their heads, to restore Ivory Coast's image," he added.

Meanwhile the president of the bar in Abidjan, Claude Mentenon, called the lawyer's dissatisfaction "legitimate", adding that he was taking the case to the appeals court to find a compromise.

A total of 12 people have been charged with involvement in the 2006 toxic waste scandal which killed 17 Ivorians and poisoned thousands.

Nine of the 12 face a raft of charges including poisoning, complicity to poison and breaking environmental and public safety laws.

The incidents date from August 2006 when truck tankers hired by Salomon Ugborugbo, the director general of Ivorian company Tommy, dumped more than 500 cubic metres of waste "slops" from the Panamanian-registered cargo ship, the Probo Koala, at public sites across Abidjan.

The so-called slops were in fact a mix of petroleum residues, sulphur and caustic soda which had accumulated in the ship.

Exposure to the waste caused respiratory difficulties, nausea and other medical problems among the local population, prompting entire neighbourhoods to evacuate.

The accused face life imprisonment if convicted.

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Defendant in Ivorian toxic waste trial blames Trafigura affiliate
Abidjan (AFP) Oct 1, 2008
The leading defendant in a key toxic waste trial Wednesday said he was misled by an affiliate of the Dutch multinational that brought the poisonous liquid to Ivory Coast in 2006.

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