I Coast cops to start questioning Gbagbo

2011-04-30 21:00

Abidjan - Ivory Coast police and gendarmes will next week begin interrogating deposed president Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone over alleged crimes by his regime, the justice minister told AFP Saturday.

Gbagbo and his wife have been placed under house arrest in separate towns in the north of the country after the strongman was arrested on April 11 by forces loyal to new President Alassane Ouattara.

"The police and the gendarmes will begin hearing Laurent Gbagbo and his wife next week from May 04. We have notified the [former] president Laurent Gbagbo," said Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou.

"The hearings will take place at the residences," he said, adding that in all some 200 people were to be interrogated.

Simone Gbagbo is being detained in the northwestern Odienne town and her husband in the town of Korhogo in the north of the country.

The government spokesman this week said preliminary investigations had been launched against Gbagbo and his associates for "crimes and offences" by his regime.

Meanwhile, the justice minister said that a probe into the kidnapping of four foreigners - two French, a Beninese and a Malaysian - earlier this month in Abidjan revealed that elements of an elite pro-Gbagbo army unit were the leading suspects.

"An investigation has been launched over the kidnapping ... There are several leads, the most serious being elements of the Republican Guards," said Ahoussou.

The four were seized from Abidjan's Novotel Hotel on April 04 by armed men at the height of Ivory Coast's political crisis sparked by Gbagbo's refusal to step down despite losing the November 28 elections to Ouattara.

Authorities have arrested the head of the 2 500-strong Republican Guard force Bruno Dogbo Ble, whose unit was a key regime pillar and which has been accused of violent attacks against civilians.

Ouattara has taken the presidency after his rival's arrest and is struggling to restore stability in the country after the devastating crisis.