News24

Ivory Coast ex-minister held in Togo

2012-06-07 09:54

Abidjan - The former defence minister of Ivory Coast's disgraced ex-president Laurent Gbagbo was arrested at his home in exile in neighbouring Togo on Wednesday and extradited to Abidjan, officials said.

Moise Lida Kouassi had fled to Togo's capital Lome following a deadly crisis in Ivory Coast in the chaotic and bloody months after Gbagbo refused to acknowledge his defeat in November 2010 presidential polls.

The ensuing chaos led to about 3 000 deaths and Ivory Coast's new government issued several arrest warrants for members of the old regime.

A Togolese gendarmerie official said Kouassi had been arrested "under an international warrant issued against him in June 2011".

Kouassi "was arrested on Wednesday morning in Lome", a family member said by phone.

About 20 gendarmes arrived at Kouassi's home without a search warrant. They searched the house for an hour and "took away a computer and the mobile phones", the family member said.

Kouassi was taken to the headquarters of ANR, Togo's intelligence agency, and handed over to Ivorian security agents who started to interrogate him.

An Ivorian government source said the former minister was extradited a few hours later and arrived by air in Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan late on Wednesday.

Gbagbo was captured on 11 April 2011, and has been in custody in The Hague since November on allegations of crimes against humanity.

Kouassi's arrest came at the same time as Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara was visiting Togo to attend a regional financial summit.

Kouassi was defence minister in September 2002 during a failed coup d’état attempt by anti-Gbagbo rebels.

Since Ouattara became president in April 2011, Ivorian authorities have filed several international warrants against former regime members living in countries in the region, especially Togo and Ghana.