Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague have acquitted Ivory Coast ex-President Laurent Gbagbo. He had been charged with crimes against humanity in connection with violence following a disputed election in 2010.
He was captured in 2011 in a presidential palace bunker by UN and French-backed forces supporting his rival, Alassane Ouattara.
Mr Gbagbo was the first former head of state to go on trial at the ICC.
ICC judges ruled that he had no case to answer because the prosecution had failed to prove several charges against him. They have ordered his immediate release.
The violence in 2010 in Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, came after Mr Gbagbo refused to accept that he had lost a disputed election run-off to his rival, Alassane Ouattara.
The violence saw 500,000 people displaced.
ICC judges ruled on Tuesday that he had no case to answer because the prosecution had not managed to prove several charges against him. They have ordered his immediate release.
Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser said the prosecution had “failed to demonstrate that public speeches by Gbagbo constituted ordering or inducing the alleged crimes”.
Mr Gbagbo’s supporters whooped, cheered and threw their firsts in the air in the public gallery following the announcement, the BBC’s Anna Holligan reports from the court.
Analysts say the development is a blow to the ICC’s reputation.
“Whenever a case involving mass atrocities essentially collapses at the ICC, it does damage to the perception of the court as a credible and effective institution of international justice,” Mark Kersten, author of Justice in Conflict, told the BBC.
“Many are concerned that the court is emerging as an institution where only rebels can be successfully prosecuted,” he added.