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Judge in Liberia sentences 13 men to life for raids targeting Ivory Coast

MONROVIA, Liberia - A Liberian judge has sentenced 13 men to life in prison for "mercenary activity" in neighbouring Ivory Coast, state radio reported Wednesday.

The men were convicted for their role in attacks on villages in western Ivory Coast in 2011 and 2012.

Ivory Coast was rocked by months of postelection violence after former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down despite losing the November 2010 presidential runoff to Alassane Ouattara.

After the conflict, many pro-Gbagbo fighters along with Liberian mercenaries who supported Gbagbo fled into neighbouring Liberia, where they are believed to have launched cross-border attacks. An attack in Ivory Coast in June 2012 killed seven U.N. peacekeepers, sparking international pressure on Liberia to curb mercenary activity.

State radio said that the men were sentenced on Tuesday. One of their lawyers, Tiawan Gongloe, has said that the jury's verdict was not supported by law, and the legal team plans to appeal the conviction and the sentence.

Sporadic raids from Liberia into Ivory Coast have continued. Last week's verdict was the first under Liberia's mercenary law.

Gbagbo was ousted from power in April 2011 and incarcerated in The Hague that November. He is charged at International Criminal Court with orchestrating violence carried out by his supporters after Ivory Coast's 2010 elections. He denies wrongdoing.

Ouattara is now president of Ivory Coast.

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