PARIS (Reuters) - Lawyers for Ivory Coast’s parliament speaker Guillaume Soro said on Tuesday that a warrant issued by a French judge in a case brought against him by the former Ivorian president’s son had been withdrawn.
Soro, a former rebel leader turned politician, is in Paris to participate in the COP21 climate talks. He was prime minister when fighters under his command captured Michel Gbagbo, son of Ivory Coast’s ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, in April 2011 at the end of a brief civil war.
Held in detention until 2013, Michel Gbagbo, who possesses both French and Ivorian citizenship, filed a complaint in France against Soro and other former rebel chiefs alleging “kidnapping, false imprisonment and inhumane and degrading treatment”.
The warrant, which police tried unsuccessfully to execute on Monday at the Paris residence where Soro is currently staying, called for him to be brought before Judge Sabine Khéris after he did not comply with a previous summons. It does not imply he is being charged with a crime.
Soro’s legal team said in a statement that they met the judge and handed over documents, including diplomatic mission orders from President Alassane Ouattara and the Ivorian parliament, the National Assembly.
“Upon receiving and examining these documents, which she did not previously possess, the examining magistrate lifted the bench warrant,” the statement said.
The incident had threatened to damage relations between Ivory Coast and France, whose military backed Ouattara when Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept his defeat in a presidential run-off election in late 2010.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the ensuing conflict, and ex-president Gbagbo is currently awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court accused of crimes against humanity.
“(Soro‘s) visit is being undertaken on orders emitted by the president of the republic. Under these conditions, he benefits from absolute immunity,” Ivorian Foreign Minister Charles Koffi Diby told journalists on Tuesday.
Soro, who is next in line to replace President Ouattara were he to die in office or be incapacitated, claims he was within his legal rights to arrest Michel Gbagbo, who was captured along with his father at the presidential residence.
He has also rejected allegations that there had been any violence during his detention and has lodged a counter-complaint against Michel Gbagbo in France, accusing him of making a false accusation.
Soro is widely considered a leading candidate to succeed Ouattara, who is due to complete his second and final five-year term as president of the world’s top cocoa grower in 2020.
Additional reporting by Joe Bavier and Loucoumane Coulibaly in Abidjan; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Ruth Pitchford