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Lawyer Slams Ex-Ivorian Leader's Son Arrest

The lawyer of the son of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo has decried as "illegal" the Friday arrest of his client before flying to France to attend a court hearing against Ivorian National Assembly Speaker Guillaume Soro.


Michel Gbagbo, son of ex-Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo
Michel Gbagbo, son of ex-Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo
The lawyer of the son of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo has decried as "illegal" the Friday arrest of his client before flying to France to attend a court hearing against Ivorian National Assembly Speaker Guillaume Soro.

"After completing the necessary formalities, Michel Gbagbo went for security check and that was when he was arrested and led to the police post and later taken to the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DST)," Rodrigue Dadjé declared.

Gbagbo, 42, was arrested Friday at the country's main airport in Abidjan Friday while completing procedures to travel to France. "No court order was issued to prevent Michel from travelling," Dadjé said. "He is a free man and can travel back and forth. His arrest has no legal basis and is therefore a gross violation of his rights," insisted the lawyer.

But airport police said a travel restriction on Gbagbo was still in force, seven months after he was granted provisional freedom alongside with 12 other political prisoners in July 2013. In a statement, the office of the state prosecutor said Gbagbo had not been authorised to travel out of the country, citing an upcoming hearing he is expected to attend in Abidjan.

Gbagbo, alongside his father and hundred others, were pulled out of a presidential bunker and arrested in April 2011 by forces loyal to then President-elect Alassane Ouattara, ending weeks of post-elections violence that claimed 3,000 lives.

Born to a French mother, Gbagbo holds a dual nationality.

This has enabled him to file a case in France against Soro, a former rebel chief, for inhuman treatment during the two years he had spent in a prison in the north of the country, formerly controlled by Ivorian rebels.

France does not have jurisdiction to try Soro, who now heads Ivory Coast's parliament and enjoys legislative immunity. However, the Monday hearing in Paris may highlight accusations of atrocities against some warlords who had worked under Soro.

In an interview last year, Soro denied any wrongdoing, saying Gbagbo and others were arrested under a UN Security Council resolution.

More than 60 political prisoners were released last month in an effort by the government to facilitate a national reconciliation process, long crippled by the opposition's refusal to participate in political activities in protest against the continued detention of close to 700 of its members or sympathisers.


Abidjan Live News editorial team with files from AA.

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