The former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, has appeared at a pre-trial hearing at the International Criminal Court at the Hague in the Netherlands.
He is facing charges of crimes against humanity including rape and murder.
The crimes allegedly took place during a four month civil war after he refused to cede power to his opponent Alassane Ouattara after losing last year’s election.
Gbagbo denies responsibility and accuses former colonial power France of plotting his downfall: “The conditions of my arrest are these. It was the French army that did the work, and they handed me over to the forces of Alassane Ouattara who were not the regular forces of Ivory Coast.”
Gbagbo was arrested at his presidential home in April this year, effectively ending the conflict that left over 3,000 people dead.
Until last week he had remained under house arrest in Ivory Coast. His transfer to The Hague angered some of his supporters who called it a “political kidnapping”.
His party, the Ivorian Popular Front, has pulled out of elections at the end of this week in protest.
Monday’s hearing is the first step in a process that could lead to Gbagbo going on trial, a decision that will not be announced until next June.