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Gbagbo ally says he fears torture if returned to Ivory Coast

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A former Ivory Coast minister and key ally of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo said on Wednesday that he fears torture if he is extradited back to Ivory Coast from Ghana.

Justin Kone Katinan, Gbagbo's spokesman and an ex-budget minister, has been fighting extradition since authorities in neighbouring Ghana arrested him last August.

Ivorian authorities have accused him of 20 counts of robbery and conspiracy to rob, and Katinan was in the witness box for the second day to defend against those charges.

"They will torture me and I'll become disabled" if he returned to Ivory Coast, Katinan told reporters outside the court in Ghana's capital Accra.

Katinan said he was almost sent to Ivory Coast immediately after his initial arrest in August, but was saved by his attorney showing up in court in time to challenge the extradition.

He said he fled to Ghana shortly before the downfall of Gbagbo because he heard that he and former interior minister Desire Tagro were to be killed by those loyal to President Alassane Ouattara.

Tagro died in mysterious circumstances at the time of Gbagbo's arrest.

"If I wanted to save myself, I had to run away," Katinan said.

Forces aligned with both Ouattara and Gbagbo have been accused of human rights violations during the 2011 post-election crisis during which more than 3,000 people were killed.

Rights group say Ouattara's regime has prosecuted hundreds of supporters of Gbagbo, but few of its own supporters for crimes committed during the fighting.

The crisis was sparked when Gbagbo refused to concede defeat in 2010 presidential elections.

Katinan is trying to prove that the charges against him are politically motivated in order to avoid extradition from Ghana.

Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011 and is in custody in The Hague as judges at the International Criminal Court determine whether there is enough evidence to try him on charges of crimes against humanity.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130612/gbagbo-ally-says-he-fears-torture-if-returned-ivory-coast