Smiling Gbagbo faces atrocity court
Former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo has appeared at the International Criminal Court, the first former head of state to face judges at the permanent war crimes court.
Gbagbo was calm and smiled at supporters in the public gallery as the 25-minute hearing opened. He told judges he did not need them to read the charges against him.
Gbagbo was extradited to the Netherlands last week to face charges including murder and rape committed by supporters as he attempted to cling to power.
Prosecutors say about 3,000 people died in violence by both sides after Gbagbo refused to concede electoral defeat. President Alassane Ouattara took power in April with the help of French and UN forces.
The former president, speaking in French, said he wanted to see the evidence against him. "I will challenge that evidence and then you hand down your judgment," he told the three-judge panel.
Gbagbo also complained about his arrest by opposition forces backed by French troops in April, saying he saw his son beaten and his interior minister killed in the fighting.
"I was the president of the republic and the residence of the president of the republic was shelled," he said.
He also complained about his transfer to The Hague last week from northern Ivory Coast where he was under house arrest. "We were deceived," he said, adding the official in charge of his transfer "did not have the courage to tell me I was going to The Hague."
The brief hearing was to confirm Gbagbo's identity and ensure that he understood his rights and the charges. According to court papers, Gbagbo is charged as an "indirect perpetrator" in a carefully orchestrated campaign of violence against supporters of Mr Ouattara.
Presiding judge Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi of Argentina scheduled a hearing for June 18 where prosecutors will present a summary of their evidence and judges will decide whether it is strong enough to merit bringing Gbagbo's case to trial.