A Mali court Saturday sentenced 46 Ivory Coast soldiers to 20 years in prison for conspiring against the government, according to Mali Attorney General Ladji Sara. Another three soldiers were sentenced to death, despite being absent from the trial.The court found the soldiers guilty of “attacking and plotting against the government,” “undermining the external security of the state,” and more at the end of the two day trial in Bamako, Mali. The court sentenced the soldiers to 20 years in prison, one day before the expiration of the ultimatum issued by the Western African heads of state. If the ultimatum would have expired, Mali faced sanctions and economic penalties if they did not return the soldiers.The 49 Ivorian soldiers were arrested at Bamako Airport–located in Mali’s capital–in July, which led to a serious diplomatic dispute between the neighboring countries. The soldiers were arrested on suspicion of “conspiring against the state.” Mali authorities then held the soldiers until their trial.The diplomatic dispute is rooted in Mali accusing the soldiers of being mercenaries and transporting and planning to use weapons against the government. The UN and Ivory Coast officials disputed that account, stating that the soldiers were placed on a peacekeeping mission.Mali’s ruling junta has further isolated themselves from international interests and allies with this case as military leader Assimi Goita has come under fire for not holding democratic elections in the time period recognized by the international community. Mali has relied on international assistance to contain the junta and other parties for over a decade, who now have control of large parts of the central and northern regions of Mali.
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