I Coast court frees Akoun

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iol pic afr icoast -court AFP Laurent Akoun (L), the number two in the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), a top leader of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo's party, talks to his lawyer Toussaint Zahui Dako (R) during his trial on August 31, 2012 at Abidjan's court.

Yamoussoukro - An Ivory Coast court has ordered that the jailed deputy leader of the party of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo be freed on February 28 but restricted to his home region for one year, a judicial source said on Thursday.

The court this week rejected an appeal by Laurent Akoun, the secretary general of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), who was on August 31 jailed for six months for disturbing the peace in the light of remarks he made targeting President Alassane Ouattara.

“One can say anything, but in the appropriate way,” the court told Akoun. It upheld the prison term, and barred Akoun from movement in any part of the west African country apart from his native region in the southeast. He also lost his civic rights for a year.

An opposition lawyer, Toussaint Zahui Dako, who called for a lifting of these further measures, denounced “a political decision” he described as “iniquitous and dangerous”.

“On February 28, Mr Akoun will come out of prison to go to jail in his village,” Dako said.

The FPI deputy leader was sentenced in 2012 for remarks he made at a meeting with party militants, which were published in the press.

Akoun accused Ouattara of being a liar and alleged that he wanted to “kill Gbagbo”. The court considered these comments to be “a call for insurrection”.

Gbagbo, who first came to power in 2000, refused a decade later to acknowledge defeat by Ouattara in a presidential election, triggering a bloody showdown that lasted from December 2010 to April 2011, when Gbagbo was ousted at the cost of about 3 000 lives.

The former head of state is currently being held by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he has been charged with crimes against humanity.

The FPI has been engaged in a political dialogue with the government since mid-January and wants an amnesty for many detained party activists and supporters. It has made its participation in regional and municipal elections conditional on this amnesty.

A cabinet statement issued on Thursday announced that these elections will take place on April 21 “at the proposal of the Independent Electoral Commission”.

The government has refused an amnesty, saying that court cases that have been underway for two years must first be completed. - AFP


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