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Belgium to take in ex-Ivory Coast president Gbagbo

Laurent Gbagbo, now 73, was the first former head of state ever to stand trial at the ICC.

Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo. Picture: AFP

BRUSSELS - Belgium has agreed to take in former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo following his acquittal at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, a foreign ministry spokesperson told AFP Saturday.

But under the terms of his release, he has to remain in a host country until the tribunal rules on whether to grant the prosecutors' request for a new trial.

He is also forbidden from contacting witnesses in the case and speaking publicly about it.

"In response to a request from the International Criminal Court, Belgium has agreed to take in Laurent Gbagbo," said spokesman Karl Lagatie.

"That is also part of the framework of our support for international criminal jurisdictions," he added.

SHOCK ACQUITTAL

The ICC finally freed Gbagbo on Friday after his shock acquittal last month on charges of crimes against humanity.

He and his aide Charles Ble Goude were cleared on January 15 over the wave of violence after disputed elections in the west African nation in 2010.

His release was also on condition that he stay in whichever host state accepted him until the court decided whether to let a new trial go ahead.

Defence lawyers had argued for the two men's immediate and unconditional release.

Under further conditions, Gbagbo also had to surrender his travel documents, report weekly, avoid contacting witnesses in Ivory Coast and refrain from making public statements about the case, the court documents said.

According to Belgian press reports, Gbagbo's second wife, 47-year-old Nady Bamba, lives in Belgium.

Gbagbo, now 73, was the first former head of state ever to stand trial at the ICC.

More than 3,000 people died on both sides after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to his internationally backed-rival -- and now-president -- Alassane Ouattara.

He had been held by the ICC in the Netherlands since 2011.

The ICC's unwillingness to let Gbagbo return to Ivory Coast may be because of the country's refusal to surrender Gbagbo's wife Simone, despite an outstanding ICC warrant for her arrest.

She was convicted and jailed by the courts there in 2015, but Ouattara granted her an amnesty last year, allow her release after seven years in detention.

Gbagbo's release comes at a particularly tense time in Ivory Coast.

With presidential elections due in 2020, Ouattara has not said whether or not he will run for a second term, and the coalition he formed with Henri Konan Bedie, his former ally against Gbagbo, has collapsed.

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