ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast opposition leader Pascal Affi N’Guessan was released on Wednesday after nearly two months in custody for creating a breakaway government after a disputed presidential election marred by violence.
His release is seen as a key step in repairing relations between the opposition and President Alassane Ouattara’s ruling party after an Oct. 31 election that pulled hard at the seams of the West African nation’s fragile peace.
Affi “is a free man and will be able to see his family again today”, though he will remain under “judicial supervision”, his lawyer Me Pierre Dagbo Gode told Reuters.
Government spokesman Sidi Toure confirmed the release.
The opposition said Ouattara was breaking the law by seeking a third term, and boycotted the vote. Outtara said a change to the constitution in 2016 restarted his mandate and allowed him to run again. He won in a landslide.
Dozens died in politically charged ethnic clashes around election time, raising fears of a re-run of a 2010-11 civil war in which 3,000 were killed.
In protest against the president’s victory, Affi helped create a rival “transitional council” in November, which triggered his arrest. Prosecutors at the time said they were pursuing terrorism charges against more than a dozen opposition leaders.
Since then, Ouattara has tried to promote reconciliation. Talks with the opposition have sought to narrow the rift. One of the opposition’s key demands was the release of arrested politicians.
(Reporting by Ange Aboa; Editing by Edward McAllister and Steve Orlofsky)