A former top adviser to Ivory Coast’s ex-President Laurent Gbagbo was plotting to destabilise the West African nation’s government before he was arrested in Togo this week, an Ivorian government spokesman said.
Gbagbo has been charged with criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity and is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Togolese authorities raided the residence of Moise Lida Kouassi, who served as defence minister under Gbagbo, in the capital Lome early on Wednesday. He was extradited to Ivory Coast later in the day, Reuters reports.
“This arrest took place because this person was involved in a major plan to destabilise our country. Many documents that seriously compromise him were found in his possession,” government spokesman Bruno Kone told journalists.
Around 3,000 people were killed in a brief but brutal civil war that erupted last year after Gbagbo rejected the election victory of his rival, current President Alassane Ouattara.
His lawyers asked on Thursday for his trial, due to begin on June 18, to be postponed, saying he was unwell after being mistreated during detention in Ivory Coast.
Ouattara’s government last year issued 24 international warrants against high-ranking military and political officials close to Gbagbo, most of whom are believed to be living in exile in Ghana, Benin and Togo.
Lida Kouassi is the first to be detained.
His arrest came as New York-based rights campaigner Human Rights Watch (HRW) blasted Ivory Coast’s neighbour Liberia for a lack of action against forces operating from its territory.
HRW charged that Liberia’s government had failed to stop mercenaries and militias from recruiting child soldiers and launching deadly raids on villages across the border into Ivory Coast. Human rights investigators said Liberia-based fighters claimed to be receiving financing from individuals in the region, particularly from Ghana.
Liberia rejected the criticism.
“Liberia has no incentive to either threaten its neighbors or encourage attacks against other countries,” Liberia’s Information Minister Lewis Brown said, adding that several extradition proceedings were advancing through the courts.