15 March 2013

Sudan Coup Attempt Trial Shrouded in Secrecy

Photo: AlJazeera
Sudanese president Omar al Bashir (file photo).

Khartoum — The trial of military personnel accused of involvement in a coup plot which Sudanese authorities allegedly foiled several months ago began on Thursday amid intense secrecy.

Authorities announced last November that they had arrested 13 suspects, including ex-spy chief Salah Gosh and Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim Abdel-Galil from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), on suspicion of standing behind a "subversive attempt".

The trial, which is taking place at the army's weapons brigade in Khartoum's northern suburb of Alkadaro, was confined to those suspects belonging to the SAF, while prosecution of those belonging to the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), including Gosh, was postponed to a later date.

An informed source told Sudan Tribune that military court officials informed detained army officers led by Abdel-Galil that they will be brought before the court on Thursday.

A defence team comprising of Omer Abdalla Elshiekh, Hashim Abubakr Elgaali, and others has been formed.

The same source said that prosecutors found no evidence to prove the involvement of Gosh in the alleged coup plot.

Abdel-Galil made a forceful plea to the court, the source said, admitting his involvement in the coup before the judge.

According to the source, the veteran SAF officer and former commander of the Presidential Guard, addressed the court directly, saying "Yes, I was going to overthrow the government, and if I am released, I am going to do it again. You have two options: either to execute me or release me".

The court session was adjourned in the afternoon, with the defence team allowed to sit with the defendants before they were returned to detention amid tight security measures.

The next court session is expected to be held on Sunday in the same place, although there is speculation that the proceedings may be transferred to another location.

An influential Islamic leader has predicted that suspects will be sentenced to15 years imprisonment, with Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir likely to order a general amnesty and retirement from service for all officers involved.

The source ruled out the release of Gosh, saying "he has enemies inside and outside the regime, most notably presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie".

Gosh's defence team plans to submit a motion to the court demanding that he be tried or released.

Sudanese authorities aborted the attempt to overthrow the regime just before dawn on 22 November.

The subsequent arrest of more than a dozen senior security and army officers considered Islamist loyalists sent shockwaves through the country at the time.

Details of the alleged plot remain unclear after a number of government officials gave conflicting statements about the events.

A government spokesperson said at the time that those named in the plot were planning to destabilise security, as well as spreading false rumours about the health of 68-year old president, who has undergone two throat surgeries since August in Qatar and Saudi Arabia respectively.

However, the lack of a coherent explanation by officials on the coup attempt led many observers to believe that the incident was indicative of is a power struggle within the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) aimed at eliminating disenfranchised Islamist elements.

Government critics also claimed the coup attempt was concocted as an attempt to either target opposition parties or create a distraction from the possibility of a worsening economic crisis.

The NISS at first said that the "subversive attempt" was led by opposition figures but the main opposition coalition National Consensus Forces (NCF), which consists of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) and the National Umma Party (NUP), denied the accusation, saying that whatever happened was an indication of growing dissent within the NCP.

Later Nafie said in a TV interview that the NUP leader al-Sadiq al-Mahdi was aware of the coup plans but refused to go into details.

Authorities have not charged any NUP figure in connection with the coup attempt.

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