Former Ivory Coast Leader Laurent Gbagbo urges war crimes court to acquit him



Former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo has urged international judges to acquit him and release him from jail, arguing that the prosecution has failed to prove he committed any crimes.

In a filing to the International Criminal Court (ICC) dated Monday, his lawyer argues that Gbagbo — the first former head of state to be tried by the tribunal — should be acquitted of all charges arising from post-election violence that wracked the Ivory Coast in 2010 and 2011.

It asks the court based in The Hague to find that “the elements presented by the prosecutor against Laurent Gbagbo within the framework of his case do not allow for the charges to be proven beyond all reasonable doubt”.

The request is scheduled to be hammered out before judges at a hearing on October 1 when the defence will call for an acquittal, and the prosecution will get a chance to contend that the trial should continue.

About 3,000 people died in the turmoil that swept Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan in the aftermath of the November 2010 presidential polls when Gbagbo refused to accept that he had been defeated by bitter rival Alassane Ouattara.

Abidjan was turned into a war zone as clashes flared between the rival forces.

After a months-long standoff, Gbagbo, now 73, was arrested by Ouattara’s troops aided by UN and French forces, and turned over to the ICC in 2011.

His highly charged trial on four counts of murder, rape and persecution opened at the tribunal in The Hague in January 2016.

The prosecution rested its case in January this year after calling 82 witnesses and submitting thousands of documents and hundreds of hours of videos.

The defence has yet to start its case, but defence lawyer Emmanuel Altit urged in his filing that the court dismiss the case against Gbagbo, “deliver an acquittal in his on all charges … and order the immediate release of Laurent Gbagbo”.

Judges will likely rule some time after the October 1 hearing whether they agree to acquit Gbagbo or not. If his plea is dismissed, the defence will then begin to set out its case at a later date.

It is not the first time Gbagbo has sought to be released from jail during the trial. In July 2017, five appeals court judges ordered a new review to be carried out as to whether he should stay behind bars or not, given his age and health.

But that request was denied in September, with judges ruling the defence team had failed to “provide concrete and solid conditions that would guarantee” the former leader would show up in court.

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