30 December 2011
Ivory Coast freed on bail ex-strongman Laurent Gbagbo’s personal physician Friday and two journalists detained during the country’s post-election unrest earlier this year, a judicial source said.
“The release order has just been signed” for pro-Gbagbo journalists Hermann Aboa and Franck Anderson Kouassi, as well as for the doctor, Christophe Ble, the source told AFP.
Kouassi was the head of the media regulatory body.
Aboa hosted a show which, during the crisis that broke out after a disputed November 2010 election, aired virulent criticism of Gbagbo’s rival, the current President Alassane Ouattara.
Gbagbo had refused to concede defeat, sparking a crisis that the UN says left 3,000 dead and ended when pro-Ouattara forces captured the incumbent president, with backing from the UN and France.
As Ouattara was sworn in, Gbagbo and many of his closest aides were held in custody.
He was eventually transferred to The Hague last month to become the first former head of state brought before the International Criminal Court.
Gbagbo’s camp has accused Ouattara of meting out victor’s justice since taking power and has set the release of several prisoners as a condition to take part in reconciliation efforts.
Herve Gouamene, a lawyer for some of the pro-Gbagbo figures still held, told AFP that Friday’s release orders were not enough.
“We are happy for these three individuals but we expect more because we have made requests for 20 people to be released on bail,” he said.
The 17 still in custody include Gbagbo’s wife Simone, former prime minister Gilbert Ake N’Gbo and several former ministers.
Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which has called for Aboa to be freed since his arrest in July, also welcomed his release.
“It was not normal to keep him locked up when the Ivory Coast press law” cannot be used against him, RSF said.
Thanking those who supported him, Aboa said he was pleased to be “free at last” on leaving Abidjan prison. – ANP/AFP
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