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Lawyers for Cote d’Ivoire’s former president Laurent Gbagbo argued on Thursday that he should be released without conditions while awaiting the prosecution’s appeal against his acquittal at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC, the world’s first permanent war crimes court, acquitted Mr Gbagbo on crimes against humanity charges on January 15, saying prosecutors had failed to prove any case against him.

He was then conditionally released from detention after more than seven years in custody to Belgium.

He was not allowed to return to Cote d’Ivoire and has to remain in Belgium and report to the court whenever a hearing in his case is called.

“The defence is of the view that in principle no restriction should be placed on a person who has been acquitted,” Mr Gbagbo’s lawyer Dov Jacobs told the court.

The defence has indicated that Mr Gbagbo would like to return to Cote d’Ivoire and possibly participate in some form in October’s presidential election.

Mr Gbagbo has not said whether he intended to run again for the presidency.

Cote d’Ivoire’s government has submitted arguments to the ICC saying Mr Gbagbo’s possible return to the country could cause unrest and that he continues to pose a flight risk.

In October 2019, the ICC prosecutor asked the appeals judges to reverse the acquittal and to declare a mistrial, resetting Mr Gbagbo’s legal process.

(Reuters/NAN)

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