Page last updated at 02:44 GMT, Thursday, 9 October 2008 03:44 UK

Ivory Coast pollution trial stops

Contaminated earth collected into giant bags
Much of the chemical waste still remains in Abidjan

The trial of nine people in Ivory Coast accused of involvement in the dumping of 500 tons of chemical waste around the port of Abidjan has been suspended.

Five defence lawyers walked out in protest at the fact that no one from the Dutch firm Trafigura which transported the waste was in court.

The UN says that the chemical waste caused the deaths of 16 people.

The court will now try to mediate with the lawyers. If this fails, they could then in theory be replaced.

But the BBC's John James in Abidjan says that other lawyers may not be willing to take the case.

The key frustration has been the failure of the court to bring in anyone from Trafigura.

The administrator of Trafigura's local company Puma Energy, N'Zi Kablan, was asked to appear as a witness, but according to the testimony of a policeman he left the country for Ghana several days before the trial opened.

Mr Kablan allowed a small local firm, Tommy, to get the contract for disposing of the waste, which was then simply dumped at around 15 sites around the city two years ago.

Trafigura says it signed the contract with Tommy in good faith and had no-idea the waste would not be treated.

Also on trial are a number of port and customs officials.

In an earlier out of court settlement, Trafigura agreed to pay the Ivorian government about $200m (108m) in one of the largest payments of its kind.

The company never admitted liability, saying the payment was made out of sympathy for Ivorian people.

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