Prominent Ivory Coast opposition figure released from prison


Prominent Ivory Coast opposition politician Pascal Affi N’Guessan, who was detained following the country’s presidential election, has been released under judicial supervision, his lawyer said Wednesday.

“He was placed under supervision and released after a hearing with the examining magistrate. He has gone home,” his attorney Pierre Dagbo Gode told AFP.

N’Guessan, a 67-year-old former prime minister, is head of a faction of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) of former president Laurent Gbagbo.

He was detained with other opposition figures following the October 31 election, when they declared the vote — won by incumbent Alassane Ouattara — to be illegitimate.

They issued a statement proclaiming a “national transition council” that was supposed to replace the government.

Its signatories were then accused of “plotting against the authorities of the state” and other charges.

N’Guessan was arrested on November 9.

His lawyer said “the charges have not been lifted, the case is continuing.”

The fate of the group has been a key issue in talks between the government and opposition aimed at easing the country’s prolonged crisis.

Scores of people died and hundreds were injured in clashes sparked by Ouattara’s announcement in August that he would seek a third term in office.

His move was condemned by critics as a subversion of constitutional limits on presidential terms, and most of the opposition boycotted the poll.

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Sidi Toure, who is also the government’s spokesman, said Wednesday that legislative elections would be held on March 6.

The announcement came the day after the conclusion of a week-long round of crisis talks.

The opposition want changes to Ivory Coast’s contested electoral commission, the release of detained leaders and the return of former leaders living abroad.

A lawyer for Gbagbo — one of the so-called exiles — said earlier this month that he planned to return to the country in December after the government had issued him with a new passport.

Gbagbo was ousted from office in 2011 and transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague after refusing to concede victory to Ouattara in elections that had taken place the previous year.

Around 3,000 people died in the post-election conflict.

His former right-hand man, Charles Ble Goude, has announced a similar plan to return.

In January 2019, the ICC acquitted the two of crimes against humanity and they are conditionally free pending a possible appeal.

Gbagbo’s PFI, which is split between a faction loyal to the former president and another headed by N’Guessan, said last week that it would contest the legislative vote.

The Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI), the country’s biggest opposition party, has yet to say whether it will take part.