By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Forty-six Ivorian soldiers in Mali were each sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison by a Malian court for attacking the security of the nation.
Three others who were previously released were given the death penalty in absentia.
The soldiers also received fines of more than $1,600 apiece following two days of hearings, according to the ruling signed by public prosecutor Ladji Sara.
They were convicted of “attacking and plotting against the government”, “undermining the external security of the state,” and “possession, carrying and transporting weapons and munitions of war or defense.”
Their intent was “to disturb public order by intimidation or terror,” said the prosecutor who sentenced them to pay a symbolic franc.
A total of 49 soldiers were detained in July following their arrest at the airport in Bamako for possessing war weapons. Authorities accused them of being mercenaries.
The Ivorian government had claimed they were on a mission for the UN.
Among them were three female soldiers who were released in September. They were given the death penalty in absentia on Friday and ordered to pay more than $10 million in fines.
A West African bloc of 15 nations had previously given Mali an ultimatum to release the soldiers by January.
An agreement between the Malian and Ivorian authorities was reached Dec. 22 for their release.
Ivorian Defense Minister Ibrahima Tene Ouattara said at the time that the “conflict is being resolved” while the Malian presidency indicated that both sides are “moving quickly towards a happy ending,” in “respect for the judicial procedures underway.”