Ivory Coast’s ex-president Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone, detained in the north of the country since they were ousted from power in April, were charged for the first time this week with “economic crimes, armed robbery, looting and embezzlement,” the public prosecutor said on Thursday.
Gbagbo had been charged on Thursday, public prosecutor Simplice Kouadio Koffi told a news conference, while Simone had been charged on Tuesday and moved from house arrest to jail.
President Alassane Ouattara’s government is closing the net around members of the former regime, who are suspected of using violence against civilians seen as pro-Ouattara during and after a disputed November election, and of looting the treasury to remain in power despite harsh Western sanctions.
“The pre-trial judge has just called me to say he has finished charging Mr Gbagbo,” Koffi said. “And last Tuesday, Mrs Gbagbo was charged and moved into preventative detention.”
Ivorian authorities arrested 57 soldiers from Gbagbo’s regime last Thursday, and charged them with crimes ranging from murder and kidnapping to attacking state security and buying illegal arms.
The former head of Gbagbo’s party, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, and 11 others were charged with violating state security in the same week, for backing his refusal to concede the poll, which tipped the country back into civil war.
Gbagbo was almost universally condemned by Western powers and African leaders for rejecting U.N. certified results showing he had lost the election to Ouattara last November.
The European Union and United States imposed sanctions and West Africa’s central bank cut him off from state funds.
Pro-Gbagbo gunmen responded by seizing the central bank’s Abidjan branch, triggering a liquidity crisis that shut down the banking system for around three months.
“The charges are: economic infraction, armed robbery, looting, embezzlement of public goods,” Koffi said.
Gbagbo’s refusal to go and use of security forces against demonstrators eventually triggered an insurgency culminating in civil war, until the former president was finally ousted in April. Around 3,000 people were killed and a million displaced.
Ouattara has invited the International Criminal Court to try the most serious crimes committed during the crisis.
Critics complain that not one of Ouattara’s men has been detained, despite evidence that they too have committed abuses.
The U.N. mission accused Ouattara’s forces last Thursday of carrying out 26 extrajudicial killings in the past month.