Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and 16 others will appear, tomorrow, Tuesday, before a special court of three judges in Khartoum, on charges of the coup against the elected government in 1989 in a case of the first of its kind that may lead to the death penalty, according to prosecutors.
“The defendants are being brought to trial under Article 96 of the Sudanese Criminal Law of 1983, which is undermining the constitutional order and Article 78 of the same law, which is participation in the criminal act,” Moez Hadhrah, one of the accused representatives in the case, told AFP.
If Al-Bashir is convicted under Article 96, he may face a maximum penalty of death, according to the representative of the accusation, who stressed, “We have strong evidence and evidence against the accused.”
“It is the first time in Sudan that a military coup was brought to trial,” he said.
The Sudanese army toppled Bashir in April 2019 following popular protests that lasted for several months.
Sudan currently has a transitional authority that will last for three years, after which general elections will be held.
In May 2019, lawyers moved the case, and later in March the Attorney General formed a committee to investigate the 1989 coup and a joint indictment commission was established..
Among the most prominent defendants in the case are representatives of Al-Bashir Ali Osman Taha and Bakri Hassan Saleh, in addition to military and civilian officials who assumed ministerial positions and governed states during the era of the former president.
“Al-Bashir and Bakri Hassan Saleh refused to speak with the investigation committee, yet they will appear before the court,” he said.
Al-Bashir’s coup was the third since Sudan’s independence in 1956, after two coups by Ibrahim Abboud (1959-1964) and Jaafar Nimeiri (1969-1985).
Al-Bashir seized power from an elected government headed by Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Umma Party, the most prominent Sudanese party.
Al-Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity during the conflict in the western Darfur region, which lasted between 1959 and 2004 and caused 300,000 deaths and millions of displaced people.
Last December, al-Bashir was convicted of corruption in one of the cases against him, and a ruling was issued against him in a social reform house for two years..
“The trial sends a message to everyone who tries to undermine the constitutional order that it is criminalized and this represents a protection for democracy,” he said.
Al-Bashir’s defense team, composed of 150 lawyers, sees it as a “political trial”, while these facts are statute of limitations.
“Our view of the trial is that it is political, dressed in law, and it is taking place in a hostile atmosphere for the accused by law enforcement,” Hashem al-Jaali of the defense team told France Press.
Al-Jali added, “These facts are obsolete, since they have been more than ten years old.”
He believed that “the trial targets the Sudanese Islamic movement and they want to stigmatize it with terrorism, but we have evidence that refutes this and that it is slander.”
In his military coup in 1989, Bashir won the support of the National Islamic Front, led by Hassan al-Turabi, who died in 2016.
Al-Jali defended Al-Bashir, noting that he had a national reconciliation with the rebel leader in South Sudan by signing a peace agreement in 2005 under the auspices of the United Nations, the League of Arab States, the African Union and the European Union..
“This is an international recognition of the rescue regime,” he commented, referring to the name the Bashir government gave itself.
But the trial is a relief to Salah Matar, the police general who was director of Internal Security and was referred to retirement a week after Bashir came to power..
“Six months before the coup occurred, we detected meetings of the National Islamic Front as it was preparing for a coup against the elected government, and we prepared a report and submitted it to Interior Minister Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi at the time, but he ignored the report,” Matar said.
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