Gbagbo allies charged with challenging 'state authority'

Fifteen associates of former president Laurent Gbagbo, including a former premier, have been charged with challenging the "sovereignty of the state", setting up armed gangs and economic crimes, the prosecutor in Abidjan said Sunday.


AFP - Fifteen associates of Ivory Coast's ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, including two former ministers, have been charged with harming state authority, setting up armed gangs and economic crimes, the Abidjan prosecutor said Sunday.

Those charged this week included former prime minister Gilbert Ake N'Gbo, former foreign minister Alcide Djedje and Philippe-Henri Dacoury-Tabley, a former governor of the Central Bank of West African States, Simplice Koffi added.

He said they were specifically charged with "harming the authority and sovereignty of the state, setting up armed gangs and state authority as well as economic crimes."

The 15 were placed under house arrest in an Abidjan hotel after Gbagbo's arrest on April 11, and will remain in custody there until they are transferred to prison, the prosecutor said.

Sunday's announcement came three days after International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked judges for permission to probe alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the aftermath of Ivory Coast's disputed November presidential poll.

ICC representatives are due in the country Monday.

Violence broke out in Ivory Coast after Ggabgo refused to recognise the internationally sanctioned results of the November 28 presidential election that declared Alassane Ouattara the winner.

It intensified dramatically in the final weeks of the crisis, when armed gangs loyal to both camps carried out what the UN and rights groups have called politically motivated attacks.

And Ivorian officials believe that serious economic crimes were also committed before the worst of the violence broke out.

According to Justice Minister Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou, funds from public banks were "stolen" during the crisis and he implicated the Central Bank of West African States.

Ouattara, who was sworn in as president late last month, has promised wide reaching investigations into the crimes that followed the country's post-election stalemate where some 3,000 people were killed, according to UN statistics.

Ouattara has invited the Hague-based court to investigate the most serious crimes committed during the crisis, while reserving lesser crimes for local courts.

But rights groups have since accused Ouattara of pursuing selective justice by aggressively probing crimes committed by his adversaries, while ignoring the brutal conduct of his loyalists.

Gbagbo, his wife Simone and 13 others affiliated with the former regime remain under house arrest in the north of country.

Rights groups have recently pressure on Ivory Coast's new government to clarify the legal uncertainty surrounding the cases of many former Ggagbo officials who have been detained since April without charge.

"There is a growing divide between the Ouattara government's rhetoric that no one is above the law and the reality that justice appears one-sided," the New York-based Human Rights Watch said.

The UN Human Rights Council said earlier this month that investigators it sent to the country believe war crimes may have been committed by both sides.

"Serious crimes such as murder and rape took place through generalised and systematic attacks" the UN panel said, and implicated both Gbagbo's forces and fighters loyal to Ouattara.

No one from Ouattara's camp has yet been arrested for abuses committed during the post-poll conflict, according to Human Rights Watch


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