ICC orders conditional release of former I.Coast leader Gbagbo

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The International Criminal Court on Friday ordered the conditional release of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo after he was cleared last month on charges of crimes against humanity.

Judges agreed to release the 73-year-old ex-strongman and his aide Charles Ble Goude on condition that he lives an as-yet unspecified country pending an appeal by the prosecution.

Appeals judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said the court would release them “to a state willing to accept them on its territory and willing to enforce the conditions set” by the court.

Ivory Coast is an ICC member state, but the court may be unwilling to send Gbagbo to his homeland, given that it has refused to surrender Gbagbo’s wife Simone despite an outstanding ICC warrant for her arrest.

Lawyers have previously cited the arrangement reached with former DR Congo warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba, who went to Belgium after he was cleared by the ICC last year.

The court ordered officials to make “appropriate interim arrangements” to find somewhere for Gbagbo to stay until a final arrangement is made with whichever country hosts him.

The first former head of state to stand trial in The Hague, Gbagbo was found not guilty on January 15 over a wave of violence after disputed elections in the west African nation in 2010.

More than 3,000 people died on both sides after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to his internationally backed-rival, Alassane Ouattara, who is Ivory Coast’s current president.