The Hague - Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo on Thursday told the International Criminal Court which is weighing whether to charge him with crimes against humanity that he had always been pro-democracy.
“All my life, I fought for democracy,” Gbagbo told the court that will decide whether to charge him over 2010-2011 post-election violence in the west African nation that claimed over 3 000 lives.
Gbagbo, 67, is the first former head of state brought before the ICC, where he is accused of masterminding a campaign of violence during the presidential vote standoff in the world's largest cocoa producer.
Gbagbo, speaking for the first time in court since December 2011, denied charges of nepotism.
“I don't govern with my family,” Gbagbo told the court.
“I was president, head of state, and my wife was an MP,” he said of second wife Simone, who is being held in Ivory Coast despite the ICC having also issued a warrant for her arrest.
Gbagbo maintains that he was evicted in favour of his rival, current President Alassane Ouattara, thanks to a plot led by former colonial ruler France.
He faces four counts of crimes against humanity for allegedly fomenting the wave of violence as he refused to hand over to election winner Ouattara after 10 years in power. He has denied the charges against him.
Prosecutors and the defence have spent just over a week arguing their cases before a three-judge bench, which has 60 days from Thursday to decide if there are “substantial grounds to believe that Gbagbo committed the crimes” and should be charged.