Ivory Coast has charged 12 more allies of former president Laurent Gbagbo, including his son and party chief, with rebelling against the state in a deadly post-vote dispute, an official said on Wednesday.
They are among dozens of people rounded up with Gbagbo on April 11 in a dramatic end to a conflict rooted in his refusal to accept he had lost November elections last year to Alassane Ouattara, now installed as president.
The charges include “attacks on national defense” and “plotting against state authority,” rebellion, setting up armed groups and taking part in an insurrection movement, prosecution spokesman Noel Dje said.
They take to 38 the number of Gbagbo supporters to be formally charged after the conflict in the world’s leading cocoa producer that left about 3,000 people dead.
Allegations of serious crimes including mass killings and rape have been made against both camps in the conflict, although no charges have been laid against those who backed Ouattara.
Among the latest to be charged are Michel Gbagbo, the former president’s son who has French and Ivorian nationality, and the head of his Ivorian Popular Front party, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Dje said.
The others are five people under house arrest in Bouna in the northeast of the country and five at central Katiola, including the former head of a pro-Gbagbo women’s group and ex-minister Jean-Jacques Bechio.
The 26 already indicted include former prime minister Gilbert Ake N’Gbo and several former ministers.
Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone, under house arrest in different locations, have yet to be charged.
Gbagbo’s lawyer on Wednesday slammed the conditions in which his client is being held as “a form of torture.”
“He is locked up 24 hours a day in a dimly-lit and shuttered room. He has no personal effects ... and has been forced to sleep in the same clothes and same sheets” for four months, lawyer Emmanuel Altit said in a statement.
Rights groups and the UN have alleged that forces backing both Gbagbo and Ouattara committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and both sides should face justice.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has asked to be allowed to carry out its own investigations.
Government spokesman Bruno Kone, speaking after a Cabinet meeting, said the “blood crimes” would be principally dealt with by the ICC, citing the “complexity” of the cases.
Ivory Coast courts have also issued several international arrest warrants for Gbagbo allies, including for former minister Charles Ble Goude, the firebrand leader of the Young Patriots group that had a large hand in the violence.
Western-backed Ouattara, sworn into office in May, has stressed he wants to promote reconciliation after the crisis but Gbagbo loyalists have insisted their former boss must first be freed.
At celebrations last weekend of the 51st anniversary of independence from France, Ouattara extended a hand to supporters of Gbagbo, especially those who fled to Ghana, saying “their place is with us” and calling for unity.
But his statement was met with suspicion.
Ouattara’s actions are “unlikely to reassure us on his sincerity,” Adou Assoa, spokesman for the exiled branch of the former ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), said in a statement.
“With one hand he invites us to return to Ivory Coast and with the other he formally indicts our comrades who are unjustly jailed, while international arrest warrants are also being issued against the Gbagbo camp,” he said.
Assoa said a pre-requisite to any return of senior FPI officials to Ivory Coast was “the release of all brothers who are unjustly imprisoned,” including the former president and his wife.