Gbagbo supporters rally in The Hague

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Supporters of former Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo on Saturday demonstrated outside the International Criminal court in The Hague where he is awaiting trial for crimes against humanity.

"Free Gbagbo, free Gbagbo," shouted around 600 protesters, according to police, while organisers said about 2,000 took part.

"We are here to demonstrate our support for president Gbagbo," said one of the organisers, Seri Zokou, a lawyer in Brussels who is also part of Gbagbo's defence team.

"We demand that the ICC brings here those who are really responsible for massacres in Ivory Coast," he added.

Most of the demonstrators came from France with others from Belgium and Switzerland.

"Laurent Gbagbo will leave this building a free man, he is not alone, the African people are with Laurent Gbagbo," Togolese Gbagbo supporter Gaetan Zoumaro told the crowd.

"We feel solidarity with the Ivorian people," he added.

On Monday Gbagbo made his first appearance before the ICC.

Gbagbo, the first former head of state to be brought before the international tribunal, faces four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and inhuman acts, over post-election violence the UN said cost about 3,000 lives.

The 66-year-old was arrested in April by followers of long-time rival and current president Alassane Ouattara after months of violence triggered by Gbagbo's refusal to accept defeat in a November 2010 vote.

© 2011 AFP

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