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I.Coast ex-political leader Ble Goude faces Ivorian trial

FILE PHOTO: Gbagbo faced charges of crimes against humanity over the 2010-2011 bloodshed. His aide faces local charges.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast | AFP |  Former Ivory Coast political leader Charles Ble Goude faces a fresh trial by an Ivorian court, prosecutors said Thursday, after he was cleared of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court this year.

Ble Goude was an aide to former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, who was also acquitted by the court in The Hague in January over post-electoral violence.

He now faces new charges over 2010-2011 bloodshed which following a disputed vote in the West African nation.

“The court will try him (Ble Goude)” for allegations of “torture, murder, rape”, said Leonard Lebry, the prosecutor general at the Court of Appeal in Abidjan, adding that there was a decision to refer him to the criminal court.

Lebry said the case against Ble Goude — once dubbed the “general of the streets” for his ability to mobilise Gbagbo supporters during the conflict — was “wider” than the ICC prosecution and covered different events.

About 3,000 people died in the turmoil that swept Abidjan — once one of Africa’s most cosmopolitan cities — in the aftermath of the November 2010 presidential polls when Gbagbo refused to accept defeat to bitter rival Alassane Ouattara, who remains in power.

On Tuesday, the Ivorian court rejected an appeal over the January 2018 sentencing of Gbagbo and three aides for the “robbery” of the Central Bank of West African States (Bceao) during the post-election crisis.

The opposition has claimed Ouattara is attempting to prevent Gbagbo returning to the country ahead of 2020 elections expected to be a crucial test for Ivory Coast, which has long been west Africa’s top economic performer and is the world’s leading cocoa producer.

Gbagbo, the first former head of state to stand trial at the ICC, was released by the ICC to live in Belgium in February under conditions including that he would return to court for any prosecution appeal against his acquittal.

Ble Goude is living in the Netherlands under similar conditions.

Prosecutors said Gbagbo clung to power “by all means” after he was narrowly defeated by his bitter rival — now president — Alassane Ouattara in elections in the world’s largest cocoa producer.

He and Ble Goude were tried over responsibility for murder, attempted murder, rape, persecution and “other inhumane acts” during five months of violence, both pleading not guilty.

However, judges dismissed the charges, saying that the prosecution “failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard.”

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