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ICC prosecutors plan to appeal Gbagbo acquittal

The Hague, Wednesday

International Criminal Court prosecutors said Wednesday they would appeal against the shocking acquittal of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo and urged judges to bar him from returning to his homeland.

Judges cleared Gbagbo and his right-hand man Charles Ble Goude on Tuesday of charges of crimes against humanity over a wave of post-electoral violence in 2010-11 in which around 3,000 people died.

The Hague-based court also ordered that the two men should be freed, but postponed this pending a fresh hearing on Wednesday where prosecutors opposed any unconditional release.

The prosecution filed an “urgent request” saying it “has determined that it intends to appeal… following the acquittals”.

Prosecutors also said there were “exceptional reasons” to oppose Gbagbo’s unconditional release, citing a “concrete risk” that he would not come back if their appeal was successful and the trial was to continue.

But they said they would accept his release “if the flight risk can be mitigated by imposing a series of conditions, including that they are released to a State Party… other than Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)”. Defence lawyer Emmanuel Altit, however, said that Gbagbo should go free immediately.

“Laurent Gbagbo is no longer presumed innocent, he has been found innocent. That changes everything,” Altit told the court. “The prosecutor is incapable of setting out the slightest exceptional circumstance that would justify keeping an innocent man in prison.”

Judges said they would announce their decision after 1400 GMT on Wednesday. It is unclear how soon Gbagbo and Ble Goude would be freed from the ICC’s detention centre in The Hague if the judges to rule in their favour, although in previous cases it has taken days to make full arrangements for the release of acquitted suspects.

Burden of proof

During the trial, which opened in January 2016, prosecutors said Gbagbo clung to power “by all means” after he was narrowly beaten by his bitter rival — now president — Alassane Ouattara in elections.

Gbagbo has been in detention since 2011, when he was captured by Ouattara’s troops, who were being aided by UN and French forces, and sent to The Hague.

In a majority decision by two judges to one, the ICC said on Tuesday that prosecutors “failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard”.  The decision sparked wild scenes of joy in Ivory Coast and in The Hague.  — AFP

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