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Ivory Coast's Ble Goude Makes First ICC Appearance

Ivory Coast's former youth leader Charles Ble Goude enters the courtroom for his initial appearance at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, March 27, 2014.
A former youth leader allegedly involved in the deadly violence that followed Ivory Coast's 2010 election proclaimed his innocence on Thursday during his first appearance before the International Criminal Court.

A smiling Charles Ble Goude told the court at The Hague that he did not expect to be convicted on charges of crimes against humanity.

"Contrary to some people who think that travelling to the ICC is a one-way journey, I think a citizen can be tried and go home. I know that I will go home," he said.

Ble Goude is a close ally of former president Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede defeat after he lost the 2010 runoff to President Alassane Ouattara.

The United Nations said more than 3,000 people were killed in post-election violence. Prosecutors allege Ble Goude played a role in murders, sexual violence and other inhumane acts that occurred during the unrest.

Supporters of Gbagbo and Ble Goude have accused the ICC of bias.

They say while both the president and former president Gbagbo's camps have been accused of post-election atrocities, only Gbagbo supporters have been singled out for prosecution.

In a VOA interview, ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah denied the charges.

"The answer is 'no,' a strong 'no.' First the prosecutor investigates in the framework that has been established by the chamber and the chamber directed the prosecutor to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity allegedly committed by both camps," he said.

Ble Goude was the leader of the pro-Gbagbo Young Patriots group. He also faces charges related to violent crimes and economic crimes in the Ivory Coast.

Gbagbo is currently under detention at The Hague, where he is awaiting trial.