Judges refuse to free Gbagbo aides

2011-12-22 11:00

Abidjan - Ivory Coast judges on Wednesday refused to release on bail 20 top aides and confidants of toppled strongman Laurent Gbagbo facing charges of crimes against humanity, including his wife Simone.

The move by a court in Abidjan cast a dampener among Gbagbo's supporters who had hoped for their release as a Christmas gesture.

Former first lady Simone Gbagbo, a powerful figure in the Ivorian Popular Front party (FPI) and a virulent critic of ex-colonial power France, as well as several Gbagbo-era ministers are in jail since his capture in April.

Gbagbo, who refused to concede defeat in a November presidential poll, is currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

He was seized in April along with his wife, with support from French and UN troops, from a bunker in the presidential palace in Abidjan.

The political standoff sparked by Gbagbo's reluctance to step down plunged the west African nation, which is the world's number one cocoa producer, into a new round of civil war which left around 3 000 people dead.