Ivory Coast frees 14 Gbagbo allies pending criminal trials

ABIDJAN Mon Aug 5, 2013 11:25am EDT

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Judicial authorities in Ivory Coast have ordered the release from prison of 14 top allies of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, including his son, pending criminal trials this year, the state prosecutor said on Monday.

More than 100 suspected supporters of the former president were arrested in the wake of a brief 2011 war that erupted after Gbagbo refused to accept his defeat at the hands of Alassane Ouattara in a presidential run-off in late 2010.

Human rights campaigners had said their detention constituted a major obstacle to reconciliation as Ouattara seeks to heal the wounds of a decade-long political crisis.

"This is only provisional release and procedures leading to their judgment will continue," Richard Christophe Adou said in a statement broadcast on state television.

Those to be released include Gbagbo's son, Michel, the head of his FPI political party, Pascal Affi N'Guessan, and the former governor of West Africa's regional central bank, Philippe Henry Dacoury-Tabley.

"It's a pacification measure ... The judges' decision is a welcome one," government spokesman Bruno Kone told journalists.

The detainees were due to be freed within hours, he added.

Michel Amani N'Guessan, a senior FPI official, welcomed the move but called for the release of all the party's members, including Gbagbo, before national reconciliation could begin.

Around 3,000 people were killed in the post-election violence in the world's top cocoa producer.

President Gbagbo was arrested by the French- and United Nations-supported fighters backing Ouattara as fighting in the commercial capital Abidjan drew to a close in April 2011.

He was later transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague where he is awaiting trial for alleged crimes against humanity committed during the violence.

The court has issued a warrant for Gbagbo's wife Simone on similar charges. Ouattara's government has yet to decide whether it will allow her to be extradited.

(Reporting by Joe Bavier and Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Michael Roddy)

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