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By The Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo pleaded not guilty Thursday to four counts of crimes against humanity at the start of his trial at the International Criminal Court.

Gbagbo is the first ex-head of state to go on trial at the ICC. He is accused together with a former youth minister, Charles Ble Goude, of involvement in atrocities that left 3,000 people dead in the aftermath of a disputed 2010 presidential election runoff in their country.

Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo awaits the start of his trial at the ICC in The Hague on Thursday.Peter Dejong / AP

Ble Goude also pleaded not guilty to four charges as the trial opened.

Dozens of Ivorians massed outside the court ahead of the trial, which is expected to last months, to show their support for Gbagbo.

Gbagbo and Ble Goude each face four crimes against humanity charges including murder and rape allegedly committed by pro-Gbagbo forces in late 2010 and early 2011 as Gbagbo attempted to cling to power after losing the 2010 presidential runoff to Alassane Ouattara.