Ivory Coast's Gbagbo tells ICC he 'fights for democracy'

Laurent Gbagbo at his pre-trial hearing in The Hague. Photo: 19 February 2013 Laurent Gbagbo spoke confidently in court

Ivory Coast's ex-President Laurent Gbagbo has told the International Criminal Court that he has always "fought for democracy".

The tribunal in The Hague is to decide whether he should face charges over post-poll violence two years ago.

Some 3,000 people were killed in violence after Mr Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in the polls.

The 67-year-old, who is the first former head of state to have appeared at the ICC, insists he is innocent.

'Adoring supporters'

These were his first remarks in court since December 2011, reports said.

The BBC's Anna Holligan reports from The Hague that Mr Gbagbo spoke for about 15 minutes, more as a confident politician than someone who faced serious charges.

His supporters were in the public gallery, and looked at him adoringly as he addressed the judges, she says.

Mr Gbagbo told the court that he was not the richest or most talented person, and had entered politics to give his life to democracy, our reporter adds.

"All my life, I fought for democracy," he said, according to AFP.

He was Ivory Coast's president from 2000 until his arrest in April 2011, after he refused to accept that he lost elections to President Alassane Ouattara.

Mr Gbagbo - whom Mr Ouattara's government extradited to The Hague - accuses former colonial power France of plotting to topple him from power in the world's biggest cocoa producer.

The ICC began operating in 2002 to bring to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in countries that accept its jurisdiction, or when the UN Security Council refers a case to it.

Mr Gbagbo is the first former head of state to be detained by the ICC, although Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia and Liberia's Charles Taylor were tried by special courts in The Hague.

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