Former Cote d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo will stay behind bars after prosecutors appealed against his acquittal on charges of crimes against humanity.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague acquitted him on Tuesday and ordered his immediate release. But on Wednesday prosecutors challenged the decision to release him, arguing that Mr Gbagbo might abscond.
They said he might not appear in court if his acquittal were to be overturned. Mr Gbagbo had been charged with crimes against humanity in connection with violence following a disputed 2010 election that left 3,000 dead and 500,000 displaced.
He was captured in 2011 in a presidential palace bunker by UN and French-backed forces supporting his rival, Alassane Ouattara. He is the first former head of state to go on trial at the ICC. “Pending the decision of the appeals chamber on this prosecutor’s request (Mr Gbagbo) shall remain in ICC custody,” a spokesman for the court said in a statement.
“There is a concrete risk that, once released, the accused will not appear for the continuation of the proceeding,” prosecutors wrote in a filing. A ruling on their appeal is expected today.
The violence in Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, came after Gbagbo refused to accept that he had lost a disputed election run-off to Ouattara in 2010. Prosecutors said Gbagbo clung to power “by all means” and charged him with four counts of crimes against humanity, murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and “other inhuman acts”.
He denied the charges, which he said were politically motivated.