Ivory Coast ex-president’s ICC freedom bid pushed back

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The International Criminal Court on Wednesday pushed back to November a hearing on Ivory Coast former president Laurent Gbagbo’s bid for release after defence lawyers said they needed more time.

On Monday the court based in The Hague began dealing with Gbagbo’s application to be acquitted of crimes against humanity and to be freed after seven years in detention.

Gbagbo, 73, the first-ever head of state to be handed over to the ICC, has been on trial since 2016 for his role in fomenting post-electoral violence eight years ago in the west African nation.

The hearings were meant to end on Friday, but lawyers for Gbagbo and his right-hand man Charles Ble Goude asked for more time.

“We were confronted with a prosecution response of 1,100 pages and with 1,500 pages of documents on Monday,” said Geert-Jan Knoops, lawyer for Ble Goude.

“If we have to study all the details in the transcripts, in which we see a number of inconsistencies, we would need more time.”

Judge Cuno Tarfusser granted the request, setting the new hearing for November 12.

Both Gbagbo and Ble Goude pleaded not guilty.

Unrest wracked Ivory Coast for five months from December 2010 until early 2011, after Gbagbo refused to accept his internationally recognised defeat by bitter rival Alassane Ouattara.

The crisis — which saw both sides level allegations of gross abuses — paralysed the world’s largest cocoa producer and West African powerhouse for several months.

About 3,000 people died when rival supporters clashed on the streets of Abidjan, one of the region’s most cosmopolitan cities.

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

Prosecutors maintain that Gbagbo clung to power “by all means” and that the longtime leader conspired with Ble Goude to orchestrate a plan to stay in power even before he was narrowly defeated by Ouattara.

Defence lawyers however say the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, despite 82 witnesses testifying, thousands of documents of evidence and hundreds of hours of video.