ABIDJAN The trial of a top military ally of Ivory Coast's former president Laurent Gbagbo, the first involving an accused instigator of last year's post-election violence, opened in the commercial capital Abidjan on Tuesday.
General Bruno Dogbo Ble headed the elite Republican Guard during the brief conflict, which killed more than 3,000 people and erupted after Gbagbo refused to accept his defeat to rival Alassane Ouattara in an election in late 2010.
A staunch Gbagbo loyalist, he and four co-defendants are charged with kidnapping, illegal detention, and murder linked to the abduction and killing of Colonel-Major Adama Dosso in March 2011, at the height of the violence.
Tuesday's hearing was adjourned soon after it opened when defense attorneys claimed the military prosecutor violated procedure when taking over the case from a civilian investigating magistrate.
"We're not saying they shouldn't be prosecuted. But we're saying that the procedure was poorly carried out...It was totally illegal," said Mathurin Dirabou, a member of the defense team.
The court is expected to rule on the defence's request that some parts of the prosecution's case be reinvestigated when the trial resumes on Wednesday.
Dogbo Ble was separately charged on Monday with the 2002 murder of Robert Guei, who ruled the country at the head of a military junta from December 1999 to October 2000.
Gbagbo was captured by fighters backing Ouattara during the battle for Abidjan and is now awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity charges for his alleged role in the violence.
While more than 100 of Gbagbo's supporters were arrested in the wake of last year's fighting, human rights groups accuse Ouattara, now president, of failing to prosecute his own supporters responsible for grave crimes.
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Michael Roddy)