Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday asked judges to bar former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo from returning to his homeland, a day after he was acquitted on charges of crimes against humanity. In Tuesday's shock ruling, judges found that prosecutors had failed to prove any case against Gbagbo and they could no longer justify his detention, more than seven years after he was arrested and extradited to the court. Gbagbo's acquittal was deplored by victims' groups for those who died in violence following Ivory Coast's 2010 elections that Gbagbo was accused of orchestrating. But it was welcomed by his supporters and opened the possibility that he could return to politics in Ivory Coast.
As the court reconvened on Wednesday to discuss the terms of Gbagbo's release, prosecutors said that they intended to appeal his acquittal, once the judges publish their formal decision and full reasoning. They asked that Gbagbo therefore not be allowed to return to Ivory Coast due to concern he might not again submit to the court's jurisdiction for appeals proceedings. Lawyers for the Ivory Coast politician said the prosecution request showed they hadn't yet come to terms with the scale of their legal defeat. "Laurent Gbagbo is no longer an accused person. Laurent Gbagbo has been acquitted. He is no longer presumed to be innocent - he has been acknowledged as being innocent," Gbagbo's lawyer Emmanuel Altit told the court. "He was acquitted of all accusations by the prosecutors. In these circumstances it is also meaningless to consider that Laurent Gbagbo would be a flight risk, or would abscond justice - justice has acquitted him."
(With inputs from agencies.)