Ivory Coast conflict: Gbagbos face economic charges

Deposed Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo (file image from 2 May 2011) Laurent Gbagbo has been held since he was forced from power in April

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and his wife, Simone, have been charged with economic crimes.

The charges include looting, armed robbery, and embezzlement.

Mr Gbagbo and his wife were arrested in April after a violent five-month election dispute in which about 3,000 people were killed, and half a million displaced.

They have been under house arrest in separate locations in the north of the country.

Public prosecutor Simplice Kouadio Koffi said Simone Gbagbo was charged on Tuesday and taken into custody, while her husband was charged on Thursday.

Serious allegations

The BBC's John James in Abidjan says the charges against the former president relate to the post-election period when Mr Gbagbo used state funds, including hundreds of millions of dollars from the central bank, in his attempt to stay in power.

He says that by charging them only with economic crimes, the Ivorian authorities are leaving the way open for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The court's judges are currently considering a request by the ICC prosecutor to open an investigation into the post-election violence.

The Ivorian government has requested the ICC's involvement, saying it is not competent to judge the more serious allegations of violent crimes.

Authorities have arrested dozens of people who served under Mr Gbagbo. All except the former leader and his wife had already been charged.

Human rights groups had criticised the government for holding the pair for months without charge.

President Alassane Ouattara has insisted that those on both sides of the political divide would face justice.

The violence in Ivory Coast followed Mr Gbagbo's refusal to accept defeat in presidential elections last November.

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