Charles Ble Goude, the chief youth protest organiser for Laurent Gbagbo, the former Ivorian president, has been extradited back to his native country after being arrested in Ghana a day earlier, officials have said.
“After a police operation jointly carried out by Ivory Coast and Ghana, Charles Ble Goude was arrested on Thursday in Ghana,” said a joint statement from the Ivory Coast justice and interior ministries on Friday.
“He is currently being held in Ivory Coast as part of legal proceedings involving him that are already under way in Ivory Coast.”
A former youth minister and powerful orator known for galvanising popular support for Gbagbo, Goude, was the subject of an Ivorian arrest warrant for his role in the December 2010-April 2011 post-election crisis that left at least 3,000 people dead.
The protest was sparked by Gbabgo’s refusal to accept defeat in the presidential election to Alassane Ouattara, who currently leads the country.
Supporters of both candidates were accused of engaging in violence against their opponents during the crisis.
According to Nick Kaufman, Goude’s lawyer, Ghanaian police said his client was arrested on a warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The ICC, however, said that it had no “public link” with Goude, 40, although this leaves open the possibility of a sealed warrant being issued.
Goude came to the political fore for his skill in rallying large-scale protests demanding the withdrawal of French military present in Ivory Coast in the years following a failed coup in 2002.
Sanctioned by the UN in 2006, accused of inciting attacks against its staff, Goude went on the run in West Africa. He had spent time in Ghana, home to a number of Gbagbo loyalists.
Leader of the pro-Gbagbo “Young Patriots”, Goude has been touted as a possible target for trial by the ICC, joining his former boss, who has been detained by The Hague-based court since the end of 2011 pending his trial for crimes against humanity.
Goude insists he is innocent of any crimes.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Friday that it welcomed the arrest but called on Ivorian authorities to ensure that Goude was treated fairly.
His arrest comes as members of Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front Party begin dialogue with President Ouattara’s government ahead of upcoming local elections in a bid to move Ivory Coast forward from its recent crises.