The International Criminal Court on Wednesday halted the release of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo following a fresh appeal by prosecutors, a day after he was acquitted of crimes against humanity.
Judges had earlier ordered Gbagbo and his right-hand man Charles Ble Goude to be freed after clearing them of any role in a wave of post-electoral violence in 2010-2011 that killed 3 000 people.
The trial judges on Wednesday rejected a bid by the prosecution to keep the former strongman, 73, and his ex-youth chief in detention pending an overall appeal against the decision to acquit them.
But in a fresh legal twist, an appeals chamber late on Wednesday separately said that the order for their release must be put on hold while they deal with a separate appeal by prosecutors against the two men being freed.
“Pending the decision of the appeals chamber on this prosecutor’s request… Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ble Goude shall remain in ICC custody,” an ICC spokesperson said.
The Ivorian pair can themselves appeal by a deadline of 11: 00 GMT on Thursday.
Gbagbo has been behind bars since 2011, when he was captured by Ouattara’s troops, aided by UN and French forces, and sent to The Hague.
Gbagbo went on trial in 2016 but on Tuesday judges threw out the case midway, saying the prosecution case was “exceptionally weak” and that there was no need even to hear from the defence.
His daughter has said he plans to return to Ivory Coast if and when he is released.