Exiled Ivory Coast Ex-President Gbagbo Plans December Return

Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo plans to return to the West African nation this month, even as he faces a pending conviction.

The Ivorian government issued two passports, an ordinary one and a diplomatic document, to Gbagbo, who’s been living in Belgium for nearly two years, his lawyer Habiba Toure said in an emailed statement Friday.

The issuances come a month after an Oct. 31 presidential election which Gbagbo sought to contest. His candidacy was rejected over a criminal conviction, authorities said at the time.

Exiled Ivory Coast Ex-President Gbagbo Plans December Return

His Ivorian Popular Front party is organizing “his return in accordance with his status as former President of the Republic,” Toure said. Those efforts will likely seek to ensure that a 20-year prison sentence handed to him last year, after he was found guilty of looting a bank a decade ago, isn’t enforced. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The party eagerly awaits Gbagbo’s return “to participate in the reconciliation strongly hoped for by Ivorians,” it said in a separate statement.

Gbagbo hasn’t been in Ivory Coast since his acquittal by the Hague’s International Criminal Court of separate charges linked to a post-election conflict. The former leader triggered a five-month civil war when he refused to concede defeat to President Alassane Ouattara in 2010 elections.

Ouattara, who went on to run the country for 10 years, won another five-year mandate in the October vote that the main opposition parties boycotted.

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