Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo acquitted at ICC

Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo acquitted at ICC

- Judge orders release of Gbagbo, who had been charged with crimes against humanity

- The court in The Hague acquitted Laurent Gbagbo and his former youth minister of all charges and ordered their immediate release

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has acquitted and discharged former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo.

The 73-year-old was released together with his former youth leader Charles Ble Goude on Tuesday.

Gbagbo became the first head of state to stand trial at the ICC after he was charged with crimes against humanity.

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Between 2010 and 2011, over 3000 Ivorians lost their lives in a bloodshed that ensued over a disputed vote in the country.

Gbagbo lost the general elections to bitter rival – and current president – Alassane Ouattara but refused to relinquish the seat of government.

However, during a hearing at the ICC, head judge Cuno Tarfusser said the court "by majority hereby decides that the prosecution has failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard."

In his verdict, he said the court "grants the defence motions for acquittal for all charges for Mr Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Charles Ble Goude and orders the immediate release of both accused."

The former Ivory Coast president had been in detention for the past seven years after being forcefully removed from power.

His acquittal sparked huge cheers and claps from his supporters in the public gallery of the court.

This prompted the judge to order them to sit down and "behave" in order to restore calm in the court room.

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Meanwhile, AFP reports that wild scenes also erupted in Gbagbo's home town in the Ivory Coast, Gagnoa.

Hundreds of supporters reportedly hit the streets shouting "free, free" and dancing after watching the decision live on television.

"I'm happy. He did nothing wrong yet he's spent seven years in prison. It's important that he should be free, he's our leader," one of his supporters, Bertin Sery, said.

The Secretary General of Gbagbo's party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), Assoa Adou described his release as a big step towards reconciliation.

"We have just made a big step towards reconciliation. Ivory Coast will soon be in peace,” Adou said. 

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