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Ivory Coast parliament speaker departs France amid court row

10 December 2015, 12:37

Abidjan - Ivory Coast's parliamentary speaker, who is at the centre of a diplomatic dispute between his country and France over a court investigation, left Paris for Abidjan on Wednesday evening, a spokesperson said.

Guillaume Soro, who is also a former rebel chief, had been summoned by a Paris judge in connection with a complaint filed by Michel Gbagbo, son of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, who was ousted in 2011 and is currently awaiting trial in The Hague.

"Mr Soro's plane departed... for Abidjan" on Wednesday evening, an Ivorian presidency spokesperson told AFP.

Ivory Coast on Tuesday summoned the French ambassador over the row, with Foreign Minister Charles Koffi Diby telling AFP he was voicing "a strong protest" against the moves to question Soro.

Soro had travelled to Paris to attend the COP21 UN climate conference.

Also Read: Former Ivory Coast leader Gbagbo 'fit for trial' - ICC

Several hours later, Soro's lawyers issued a statement saying the summons was not applicable because of his diplomatic immunity.

"Documents proving the official nature of his presence in France for COP21" were shown to the investigating magistrate who had issued the summons on Monday, Soro's legal team said.

They said the investigating magistrate had acknowledged that Soro "holds diplomatic status, and the immunity" that goes with that, indicating that the summons was not applicable.

The magistrate had sought to question Soro in connection with a complaint linked to "kidnapping, isolation and inhuman treatment" in 2012, when Soro was prime minister, several sources said.

"The problem is not one of opposing a court decision, but of ensuring that everything respects international law," said Ivorian government spokesperson Bruno Kone.

Soro headed rebels fighting Gbagbo, who was ousted after refusing to concede defeat to his arch-rival Alassane Ouattara in 2010 presidential elections.

After weeks of violence, Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011 when Ouattara's forces, backed by the United Nations and France, overran his compound in Abidjan.



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