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Ivory Coast: Coulibaly Released from Prison - 2001-10-31

A top aide to Ivory Coast's former military ruler has been released from prison, removing an obstacle to General Robert Guei's attendance at talks designed to end two years of political turmoil in the country. Although Captain Fabien Coulibaly has been released, he still faces charges of plotting a coup against the government. After two weeks in jail, Captain Coulibaly and five soldiers have been released pending further investigation.

The defense ministry formally announced the arrest of the men last week, accusing them of making phone calls to uncover top-secret information about the army. As part of the evidence against them, ministry officials said they had found a piece of paper written by the captain that appeared to be an order list for weapons.

Captain Coulibaly's lawyer, Jean-Claude Vai Gogbe, told VOA that the fact that his client may have prepared such a list proves nothing. The lawyer says that when General Guei was in power, Captain Coulibaly served as his head of security and as such it was perfectly proper for him to order weapons.

The captain and the other soldiers were called in for questioning after they left General Guei's military camp in Gouessesso in western Ivory Coast, where the former ruler has lived since his ouster from power one year ago.

The captain said he was going to Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial capital, to discuss security arrangements for a possible appearance by General Guei at a national reconciliation forum that is being held by the Gbagbo government.

Forum officials have been trying to persuade the general to attend. However, his lawyer says General Guei will be unable to do so as his security has not been assured.

Defense Minister Moise Lida Kouassi has attempted to defuse tension over the arrest by insisting that it was a military matter that in no way affected General Guei.