Gbagbo lawyer aims to debunk 'far-fetched' charges
Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo Thursday goes on trial on four charges of crimes against humanity linked to the deadly violence that erupted in 2010 after his bid to cling to power.
Lawyers for Gbagbo, 70, plan to vigorously defend him against accusations that he led a deliberate campaign of murder, rape and persecution as he refused to concede electoral defeat to his longtime rival Alassane Ouattara.
Gbagbo's lawyer Emmanuel Altit told AFP the very premise of the prosecution's case was a "far-fetched hypothesis."
Here are three questions to Gbagbo's French lawyer:
Q: The prosecutor's office acknowledges that a "substantial" part of the evidence against Gbagbo was provided by Ouattara's government. What do you think of the prosecutor's case?
A: "We've already shown that the charges are riddled with weaknesses, contradictions, impossibilities and incoherences. The case is flawed because it is merely based upon an attempt to legitimise Alassane Ouattara's seizure of power by force: it's a purely political narrative.
"In order to show that Alassane Ouattara was the legitimate president, it was necessary to demonise Laurent Gbagbo, to show to the international community that there was a good guy and a bad guy.
"There's nothing in the prosecutor's case to make a hierarchical link between president Gbagbo and the crimes that were committed. Or to show that he had supposedly placed his allies in strategic posts. We will show during the trial that this is a far-fetched hypothesis. It doesn't stand up for one second.
"As for the evidence, we expect the ICC prosecutor to lead an inquiry independent of both the victors and the defeated. It's the only way to prove the truth. Has she carried out an independent investigation or did she just base the case on a narrative and evidence provided by others? We call on the judges to be very vigilant."
Q: What is Laurent Gbagbo's state of mind after several years in detention already?
A: "For president Gbagbo being imprisoned is just a pause in an already long and rich life. He was already jailed in the past because of his commitment to democracy. Why? Because Laurent Gbagbo is a man of convictions, a sincere man, who has always fought for democracy. He is the one who promoted democracy in the Ivory Coast. He was the one who installed the multi-party system in the country. So he has participated in drawing up his defence and he is very confident. He wants this trial to unveil the truth."
Q: During his first appearance at the court, Gbagbo said he wanted to reveal the truth about the "French plot" to bring about his downfall. Is this still the case?
A: Everyone will tell you, that the fall of president Gbagbo was prepared, organised, planned and implemented in Paris. This trial is important because it will show the reality of the ties between France and the Ivory Coast, a system founded on corruption, a system by its very definition that is anti-democratic."
© 2016 AFP