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ICC: Gbagbo lawyers seek Ivorian ex-leader's immediate release

Peter Dejong/ANP/AFP | Supporters of Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo in front of the ICC in The Hague on January 15, 2019.

Will Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo and his former right-hand man Charles Blé Goudé soon be free? The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Court is due to rule on their acquittal as early as Friday.

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On Tuesday, ICC trial judges ordered they be freed after clearing them over a wave of post-electoral violence in 2010 and 2011 that left 3,000 people dead. But prosecutors filed a last-ditch challenge late Wednesday to keep Gbagbo and Blé Goudé behind bars while the ICC examines an overall appeal against Tuesday’s decision to acquit them.

The men’s defence teams called on the appeals chamber to reject the call to suspend their release. Legal representatives of the victims, for their part, called on the chamber to respond favourably to the request to hold them. Gbabgo lawyer Emmanuel Altit said the appeals chamber would pronounce on the matter “in a short time”.

Gbagbo and Blé Goudé have been on trial since January 2016 over the bloodshed that gripped the former French colony after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to his bitter rival, and now president, Alassane Ouattara in a presidential vote.

Judges stopped the trial midway on Tuesday due to an “exceptionally weak” prosecution case, and earlier on Wednesday they rejected an initial bid by prosecutors to keep Gbagbo behind bars.

Gbagbo’s daughter Marie Laurence had said her father planned to return home after his release.

ICC prosecutors insist that Gbagbo and Blé Goudé remain detained, fearing they would not appear before the court should their presence be required further.

The former president has been behind bars since 2011, when he was captured by Ouattara’s troops, aided by UN and French forces, and sent to The Hague.

Violence after the November 2010 election turned Abidjan into a war zone and destabilised the African economic powerhouse, the world’s largest cocoa-producing nation.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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