Supporters of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo celebrate along a street in Abidjan's Yopougon neighborhood, January 15 2019. Picture: REUTERS/LUC GNAGO
Supporters of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo celebrate along a street in Abidjan's Yopougon neighborhood, January 15 2019. Picture: REUTERS/LUC GNAGO

Abidjan — Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) asked that Ivory Coast’s former president, Laurent Gbagbo, be kept in custody while they prepare an appeal against his acquittal.

Gbagbo was being tried for crimes against humanity by the court in The Hague, where he has spent seven years in detention. His acquittal on Tuesday will pave the way for his return to the world’s biggest cocoa grower as it prepares for presidential elections in 2020.

Gbagbo was arrested in 2011 following a five-month crisis that was triggered by his refusal to acknowledge defeat to President Alassane Ouattara in a vote. The post-election conflict left at least 3,000 people, mostly Gbagbo opponents, missing or dead.

The court should only release Gbagbo and Charles Ble Goude, leader of the pro-Gbagbo militant group Young Patriots who was also acquitted, under strict conditions as they are flight risks, trial lawyer Eric MacDonald said at proceedings on Wednesday that were streamed on the website of the court.

‘Increase tensions’

A council representing victims of the conflict asked the court that Gbagbo and Ble Goude remain in detention for the duration of the appeal.

“The defendant’s release may increase tensions in certain areas of Ivory Coast,” said Paolina Massidda, the victims’ main counsel.

The court will rule later on Wednesday on whether Gbagbo and Ble Goude may be released, said judge Cuno Tarfusser.

The government said in a statement that the decision to acquit Gbagbo would bolster peace in Ivory Coast, spokesperson Sidi Toure told reporters in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

With Leanne de Bassompierre

Bloomberg