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Gbagbo allies charged over election violence

The Ivory Coast on Wednesday charged 12 allies of former president Laurent Gbagbo over post-election violence. The accused include Gbagbo's son Michel, and Pascal Affi N'Guessan (pictured), head of the Ivorian Popular Front party.


AFP - The Ivory Coast has charged 12 allies of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, including his son and party chief, with rebelling against the state in a deadly post-vote dispute, an official said Wednesday.

They are among dozens of people rounded up with Gbagbo on April 11 in a dramatic end to a conflict rooted in his refusal to accept he had lost November elections to Alassane Ouattara, now installed as president.

The charges include "attacks on national defence", "plotting against state authority," rebellion, setting up armed groups and taking part in an insurrection movement, prosecution spokesman Noel Djet told AFP.

Among the 12 are Michel Gbagbo, the ex-president's son who has French and Ivorian nationality, and the head of his Ivorian Popular Front party, Pascal Affi N'Guessan, he said.

The others are five people who were under house arrest in Bouna in the northeast of the country and five at central Katiola, including the former head of a pro-Gbagbo women's group and ex-minister Jean-Jacques Bechio.

The battle in the world's leading cocoa producer left around 3,000 people dead, with allegations against both sides of group killings and rapes, while tens of thousands fled their homes, many to neighbouring Liberia.

Ivory Coast courts have already charged 26 other people from the pro-Gbagbo camp, including former prime minster Gilbert Ake N'Gbo and several ex-ministers, for attacks on state security and economic crimes.

Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone, under house arrest in different locations, have yet to be charged. Gbagbo benefits from constitutional immunity accorded to former heads of state.

Rights groups and the United Nations have alleged that forces backing both Gbagbo and Ouattara committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and should face justice.

However no-one from Ouattara's camp has yet been investigated or charged, despite the president's pledge to end impunity. The International Criminal Court has asked to be allowed to carry out its own investigations.

Ivory Coast courts have also issued several international arrest warrants for Gbagbo allies, including for former minister Charles Ble Goude, the firebrand leader of the Young Patriots group that had a large hand in the violence.

Since taking office Western-backed Ouattara has stressed he wants to promote reconciliation after the crisis but Gbagbo loyalists have insisted their former boss must first be freed.

At celebrations of the 51st anniversary of independence from France, Ouattara extended a hand to supporters of Gbagbo, especially those who fled to Ghana, saying "their place is with us" and calling for unity.

But his call was met with suspicion.

Ouattara's actions are "unlikely to reassure us on his sincerity," Adou Assoa, spokesman for the exiled branch of the former ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), said in a statement sent to AFP.

"With one hand he invites us to return to Ivory Coast and with the other he formally indicts our comrades who are unjustly jailed, while international arrest warrants are also being issued against the Gbagbo camp," he said.

Assoa said a pre-requisite to any return of senior FPI officials to Ivory Coast was "the release of all brothers who are unjustly imprisoned," including the former president and his wife.

The Ivory Coast is still fragile and unstable, with work under way to form a new army including by integrating the former rebel fighters who supported Ouattara, who was also backed by UN and French forces.

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