Gbagbo's spokesperson gets bail in Ghana

2012-09-25 19:38

Accra - A court in Ghana on Tuesday granted bail to the spokesperson of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, Justin Kone Katinan, as prosecutors were not ready to start extradition proceedings against him.

Katinan is wanted in his home country for alleged economic crimes while he was budget minister during a violent crisis that followed Gbagbo's refusal to cede power in November 2010, when he lost an election to rival Alassane Ouattara.

Magistrate's court Judge Aboagye Tandoh approved Katinan's bail following repeated delays in court proceedings.

"There is the greatest potential that the proceeding is likely to delay and therefore I will grant the accused bail," Tandoh said. A fresh court date was set for 11 October.

At a hearing earlier this month, prosecutors said they were unable to proceed with extradition arguments because texts sent from Ivorian authorities had not been translated from French to English.

On Tuesday, they told the court the translations were still unfinished, prompting Katinan's lawyers to ask their bail request be revisited.

It was set at $26 000 and Katinan must report to Ghanaian authorities every two weeks, the magistrate said.

Katinan's lawyers told reporters that his passport remained with Ghana's Bureau of National Investigations.

They have also argued that he cannot be extradited because he holds refugee status in Ghana, where he fled in the wake of Ivory Coast's post-election crisis.

Tandoh ruled that Katinan's "right to protection as an asylum seeker under [Ghanaian] law is intact until otherwise stated".

Ivory Coast's five-month post-election conflict claimed some 3 000 lives and Gbagbo himself is currently detained in The Hague, where he faces trial by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

Since fleeing to Ghana, Katinan has continued to act as a spokesperson for Gbagbo.

Katinan's conditional release comes days after Ivory Coast shut its borders with its neighbour, following renewed concerns that Gbagbo loyalists were using Ghana as a base to launch attacks against Ouattara's government.

Ivory Coast announced the closure of the nearly 700km shared border on Friday after armed men attacked a checkpoint, with some of the gunmen fleeing into Ghana after a shootout.

Flights between the two countries resumed Monday but land and sea borders remained closed.

Ghana's police earlier this month said they had arrested three men in possession of weapons on suspicion they were plotting to overthrow Ouattara's government.