A defense lawyer says former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was working to restore democracy in his country when he was forcibly ousted from power by French forces, mercenaries and other supporters of current President Alassane Ouattara.

Lawyer Emmanuel Altit made the claim Monday in his opening statement at Gbagbo's trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.

Gbagbo has pleaded not guilty to four charges including murder and rape allegedly committed by his supporters during violence that left 3,000 people dead after disputed 2010 presidential elections.

Prosecutors last week accused Gbagbo of unleashing violence to cling to office after losing a runoff to Ouattara.

Altit says that version of events is a "political narrative ... intended to justify the use of force against President Gbagbo."