Rodrigue Dadje, lawyer of Simone Gbagbo, wife of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, speaks on the phone in Abidjan, Ivory Coast January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
THE HAGUE (Reuters) – International Criminal Court appeals judges delayed the release of Ivory Coast’s former President Laurent Gbagbo on Friday, ordering that he continue to be held for at least two more weeks after being acquitted on charges of atrocities.
Gbagbo, who has spent seven years in custody in The Hague, was found not-guilty on Tuesday over allegations of involvement in election-related violence in 2010 and 2011 in which some 3,000 people were killed.
The trial judges had ordered him to be set free, refusing a request by prosecutors to extend his detention while they appeal the case.
The 3-2 decision on Friday by a five member appeals panel means Gbagbo and his co-defendant, former Youth Minister Charles Ble Goude, will continue to be held, at least until the appeals panel has reviewed the trial chamber’s decision to release them. A new court date was set for Feb. 1.
“The detention of Mr Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Charles Blé Goudé shall be maintained pending the consideration of the present appeal,” the ruling said.
In their earlier ruling to free the men, the trial judges said the prosecution case was “exceptionally weak” and that it was unlikely the acquittals would be overturned.
The appeals chamber backed the prosecution arguments that Gbagbo might not return for future court hearings if he were set free. Prosecutors noted that his wife, who is also the subject of an ICC arrest warrant, has been living openly in Cote d’Ivoire, and that the authorities there had made clear they would not “send more Ivorians to the ICC”.
Gbagbo, the first former head of state to be taken into custody by the ICC, ruled Cote d’Ivoire from 2000-2011, refusing to stand down after his rival Alassane Ouattara was announced the winner of a 2010 presidential election.
After a period of post-election violence during which both men claimed the presidency, he was arrested by pro-Ouattara forces backed by France, and extradited to the Hague.
Additional reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Alison Williams and Peter Graff