Laurent Gbagbo co-accused former youth leader Charles Ble Goude also denies the charges which include rape, murder and persecution.(SABC)
Former president of Cote d'Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo has pleaded not guilty to four counts of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
He is the first former head of state to see his case at the ICC go all the way to trial.
His co-accused former youth leader Charles Ble Goude also denies the charges which include rape, murder and persecution.
As the trial began - hundreds of Laurent Gbagbo's supporters protested his innocence outside the court.
"We want him free now. He's a big African; he's a pan-Africanist. We want Gbagbo free," says Pro-Gbagbo demonstrator, Sadio Kante.
Pro-Gbagbo demonstrator say: "He didn't do anything wrong. He just protect the democracy, he just protect for freedom for the country."
Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Ble Goude are accused of orchestrating post-election violence in Ivory Coast in 2010 following Gbagbo's election defeat to bitter rival Alassane Ouatarra - who remains president in the country.
In the run up to the trial, the ICC has also intensified their investigation into pro-Ouatarra forces - for their alleged involved in the unrest.
“The number of victims of the post-electoral violence was over 3 thousand and the events brought before the court today only concern some of them. So the prosecutor's announcement that investigations are on-going which may concern the other camp is a very good thing for the victims in the Cote d'Ivoire," says Willy Alexandre Neth, Coordinating deputy at LIDHO, FIDH and MIDH.
The trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Ble Goude is expected to last around 3 years.
Judges here at the ICC will hear hundreds of hours of testimony from the over 700 witnesses in this case before deciding whether to convict the two men of crimes against humanity.