Gbagbo challenges war crimes evidence

Dec. 5, 2011 at 5:10 PM
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THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo told the International Criminal Court at The Hague Monday he will refute the evidence against him.

Gbagbo, taken from the Ivory Coast to the Netherlands last week, faces four charges of crimes against humanity -- his supporters are accused of rapes and murders as he tried to cling to power after 10 years in office, The Guardian newspaper reported.

About 3,000 people died in four months of post-election violence carried out by both sides after Gbagbo refused to concede to President Alassane Ouattara, who took power in April with the help of French and U.N. forces.

Ouattara was widely considered the winner over Gbagbo of the presidential election runoff Nov. 28, 2010, but Gbagbo refused to give up power.

Gbagbo told the three-judge panel in French he didn't need to hear the charges, just see the evidence. "I will challenge that evidence and then you hand down your judgment," he said.

The Guardian said the former president blamed France for his arrest by pro-Ouattara forces -- "I was arrested under French bombs. It was the French army that did the job." France is the former colonial power in the Ivory Coast.

The presiding judge set a hearing for June 18 when prosecutors will have a chance to present a summary of evidence and the judges will decide whether the evidence is strong enough to bring Gbagbo to trial, the newspaper said.

Until then, Gbagbo can challenge his detention and seek release pending further hearings.

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