International Criminal Court judges rejected a prosecution request to extend custody of former Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo following his acquittal on charges of crimes against humanity.
Calling the prosecution case “exceptionally weak”, judges said Gbagbo gave assurances he would return to The Hague-based court if ordered to.
Gbagbo spent more than seven years in custody during his trial, which dealt with allegations of involvement in election- related violence in Ivory Coast in 2010 and 2011 in which some 3,000 people were killed.
Wednesday’s decision paves the way for the release of Gbagbo and co-defendant Charles Ble Goude from a detention facility in The Hague.
Prosecutors said they would appeal the decision and there could be a retrial, but the panel of judges said the defendants could not be held in custody following their acquittal.
Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser said two of three judges believed the case against Gbagbo and his co-defendant to be so weak it was unlikely the acquittals would be overturned on appeal.
The men will be released after “logistical and diplomatic arrangements” are made, Tarfusser added. Discussions were continuing with court member states.