Former Ivorian leader Gbagbo fights ICC for freedom

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Nairobi – Lawyers representing former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo on Tuesday denied the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor’s allegations that he planned to return to power if freed from detention.

The lawyers representing the former Ivorian ruler cited his 18-month detention, seven of them under “inhumane circumstances “’following his capture at the end of a bloody power struggle in the world’s biggest cocoa producing nation.

Gbagbo’s lawyer, Emmanuel Altit, told a single judge appeal chamber that with just over 80,000 euro in his personal account and another account bearing a few thousand dollars, Gbagbo had “no funds” to flee.

ICC prosecutor Gilles Dutertre opposed the defence lawyer’s plea to free the former Ivorian leader from detention, pending the commencement of his case of a four count charge of crimes against humanity.

“The Chamber is not compelled to rule on the detention in such circumstances but will decide whether the circumstances have changed to warrant a change of the decision,” the prosecution said.

The hearing before a single judge, relayed by webstream, went into a closed session after the judge’s introduction of the case.

Dutertre said the prosecution had discovered new evidence against the former Ivorian leader, among them, that he could easily abscond and that he had the financial capability to mount a full-scale battle to return to power.

“The serious nature of the charges and the lengthy prison term that may come is reason to abscond,” the defence lawyer submitted.

“He has resources to take flight.”

Citing a report presented to the UN Security Council on Oct. 15 by the UN Expert Group, which claimed a group was raising funds for the freedom of Gbagbo from across Europe, the prosecutor called for the rejection of the appeal to have the former Ivorian leader freed.

“The chamber must not give weight to his commitment to appear before court. He would distract investigations into the crimes,”the prosecutor asserted.

But former president Gbagbo’s lawyer said he could not be held responsible for actions committed during armed clashes along the Cote d’Ivoire-Ghana border.

Altit told the judge that the actions allegedly taken by pro-Gbagbo groups could not be pinned on him.

He said the UN group’s statements lacked evidence or corroboration and had been denounced by Cote d’Ivoire.

“He cannot be held responsible for anything that has gone wrong in Cote d’Ivoire. We all know that detention only applies in exceptional circumstances,” the defence said.

The defence said the ruling on whether to grant the wish should not be made based on unfounded allegations of the prosecution. (NAN)

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