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Ivory Coast ex-president requests release from custody before trial

A lawyer representing Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] requested on Tuesday that the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder] release Gbagbo from custody while he awaits his trial. Gbagbo is the former Ivory Coast president and an alleged war criminal. His lawyer told the court [AP report] that Gbagbo would not be able to leave the area and escape justice because he lacks the resources to do so and is suffering from poor health. The lawyer did not provide additional information on Gbagbo's health. Gbagbo is charged [ICC arrest warrant, PDF] with crimes against humanity on four counts including murder, persecution, inhumane acts, and rape and other forms of sexual violence allegedly committed during the 2010 post-election violence in which Gbagbo lost but refused to cede power. Gbagbo's rival President Alassane Ouattara [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was declared the winner of the 2010 election and is now president. The ICC denied Gbagbo's leave request on determination that he posed a flight risk.

The violence that followed the 2010 election claimed approximately 3,000 lives. Last week the ICC denied [JURIST report] Gbagbo's request to leave the Netherlands for medical recovery while he awaits trial. In August, the ICC dismissed a jurisdiction challenge [JURIST report] by Gbagbo, ruling that the court has the authority to hear the case. Also that month ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I again postponed Gbagbo's confirmation of charges hearing [JURIST report] in order to determine if the former president remains fit to stand trial. Three medical evaluations of Gbagbo fitness were submitted on July 19, around three weeks after the Chamber appointed three medical experts following a defense request. The court first postponed Gbagbo's confirmation of charges hearing in June, after his lawyers asked the court more time to prepare [JURIST reports], complaining that they did not have enough resources to build their case in the amount of time given. Gbagbo's original hearing date was set [JURIST report] in December during his pre-trial hearing in ICC Pre-Trial Chamber III.

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