Lawyers again urge ICC to release ex-Ivory Coast president

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Defense lawyers on Thursday again called for the immediate release of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and an ex-government minister from detention at the International Criminal Court following their acquittal this week on charges of involvement in deadly post-election violence.

The lawyers’ written pleas to judges were the latest salvo in legal wrangling between defense and prosecution lawyers over whether strict conditions should be imposed on Gbagbo and former youth minister Charles Ble Goude if they are freed to ensure they return to court. Prosecutors plan to appeal both men’s acquittals.

Judges ordered the men released on Tuesday and again a day later after rejecting a prosecution request to impose strict conditions on their freedom. On Wednesday night prosecutors asked for the release to be suspended while an appeal on the issue is heard.

The wrangling has kept Gbagbo and Ble Goude locked up despite their acquittals on crimes against humanity charges including murder, rape and persecution.

Gbagbo has been in the court’s custody since November 2011 and Ble Goude since March 2014.

Their trial, which started nearly three years ago, was halted Tuesday when two of the three judges hearing the case ruled that prosecutors had not presented enough evidence to support their charges.

Prosecutors alleged Gbagbo and Ble Goude were involved in a plot to unleash violence in order to cling to power in the West African nation after Gbagbo lost the 2010 presidential election.

More than 3,000 people died in post-election fighting and rights groups say the acquittals of Gbagbo and Ble Goude, combined with an amnesty announced last year by President Alassane Ouattara, mean that victims have been deprived of justice.

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