In Sudan, the ousted president charged with possession of foreign funds


Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, deposed and arrested by the army in April after 30 years in power, was indicted Saturday by a court in Khartoum for illegal possession and fraudulent use of foreign funds.

Dismissed from power and arrested under the pressure of the street, the deposed president incurs up to 10 years in prison for the acquisition of these funds and up to three years for illegal transactions, said Judge Al-Sadeq Abdelrahmane .

Unshaven and wearing the long traditional white dress, Mr. Bashir, 75, was placed in a metal cage in the courtroom. Dozens of his relatives shouted "Allah Akbar" (God is the greatest) when he entered the room.

The former president's lawyers said they would present witnesses at the bar and "proof" of his innocence at the resumption of the trial on 7 September, according to an AFP journalist on the spot.

Mr. Bashir's trial opened on August 19, two days after the signing of a historic agreement between a military council that had succeeded him and the leaders of an unprecedented dispute, over a transitional period ending 30 years of military dictatorship.

Bashir faced charges of "foreign currency possession, bribery" and trading in influence. This case does not concern the heavy charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in the West Darfur region brought against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Authorities "seized 6.9 million euros, 351,770 dollars and 5.7 million Sudanese pounds (just over 110,000 euros) at the home of Mr. Bashir, illegally entered into his possession and used," said the judge.

– A Saudi "message" –

During the first hearing, an investigator claimed that the former president had confessed to having personally received large sums of cash from Saudi Arabia – $ 90 million (80 million euros). ).

On Saturday, the former president explained why he kept the money at his home, without specifying the date he received it.

"My chief of staff has received a call from the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's office saying that a" + message "will arrive on board a private jet," Bashir said, referring to the $ 25 million shipment. .

The Saudi prince "did not want his name to appear (in the transactions) and we were told that if the funds were deposited at the bank of Sudan or at the Ministry of Finance, their source should be identified," he said. added.

The $ 25 million "was not used for personal gain but as donations" to hospitals and universities and to import wheat, Bashir said.

In late April, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane, head of the then-ruling Military Council, claimed that the equivalent of more than $ 113 million had been seized from the former president's residence in Khartoum.

The court did not mention on Saturday the question of two amounts – $ 35 and $ 30 million – raised by an investigator at the first hearing and paid by the former Saudi King Abdullah, who died in 2015.

Sudan has intervened militarily in the Ryad-led coalition in Yemen since 2015 in support of the government against Iran-backed rebels.

"The relations with the Saudis have experienced episodes of tension (…) but they have greatly improved, especially after Ben Salman came to power," said Saturday Mr. Bashir. Mohammed ben Salman became crown prince in 2017.

– Other charges –

At the previous hearing, the defense sought bail from Bashir, who was arrested on April 11 after four months of protests sparked by the government's decision to triple the price of bread.

The demonstrations quickly turned into an anti-Bashir protest. During the nearly eight months of protests, more than 250 people died in the crackdown, according to a committee of doctors close to the protest.

Under the August 17 agreement, a Sovereign Council, a civilian majority but military-led body, was set up to lead the transition to civilian rule for just over three years.

A prime minister, Abdallah Hamdok, has also been appointed and he has yet to announce the composition of his government.

Bashir is also charged with killings during anti-regime protests, but the date of the trial has not been announced.

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