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Ivory Coast Begins Questioning of Ex-Leader Gbagbo

Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone, in the custody of forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, April 11, 2011

A prosecutor in Ivory Coast's government says officials have for the first time questioned former President Laurent Gbagbo about alleged rights abuses committed while he was in power.

Prosecutor Simplice Kouadio Koffi told reporters that Gbagbo was questioned Saturday despite the absence of his lawyers.

Gbagbo's team of French lawyers flew into Abidjan Friday, but were not allowed to enter the country. Ivorian officials say did not have valid visas.

Koffi said judicial officials will question Gbagbo's wife, Simon, on Sunday. Simone Gbagbo was a key figure in her husband's government.

Gbagbo was arrested last month for refusing to step down after losing a November election. His refusal to cede power sparked a violent power struggle between loyalists of Gbagbo and supporters of President Alassane Ouattara who won the election.

The political unrest killed hundreds and displaced about 1 million people.

Ouattara took power last month, after his supporters captured the defiant Gbagbo in his Abidjan home with the help of United Nations and French forces. Ouattara was sworn into office Friday inside the presidential palace.