Sudan: ICC Fugitive Gets His Day in Court

Ousted Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir is transferred from Kober prison to the office of the Public Prosecutor to hear the charges against him (file photo).

Thirty years after he swept into power in a military coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, Omar al-Bashir has appeared in court in a country that is beginning to heal itself.

Legalbrief reports that al-Bashir who became the first sitting President indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly directing a campaign of mass killing, rape and pillage against civilians in Darfur now faces a high-profile corruption trial that could see him jailed for many years.

He has been in detention since being forced out of power in April when security forces withdrew their support for his regime after months of popular protests. He was today informed by the prosecutor’s office that he faced charges of ‘possessing foreign currency, corruption and receiving gifts illegally’. The Guardian reports that al-Bashir arrived outside the Judicial and Legal Science Institute, where the trial is taking place, in a huge military convoy. Full report in The Guardian

Pro-democracy campaigners and victims of systematic human rights abuses under al-Bashir’s 30-year rule hope he will also face further charges of incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters.

A detective told the court that al-Bashir told investigators he received $90m in cash from Saudi Arabia. 'The accused told us that the money was part of a sum of $25m sent to him by (Crown) Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be used outside of the state budget,' said Ahmed Ali.

BBC News reports that Sudan's public prosecutor in May charged al-Bashir with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters. The charges stem from an inquiry into the death of a doctor killed during protests that led to the end of al-Bashir's rule in April. The doctor had been treating injured protesters in his home in Khartoum, when police fired tear gas into the building. A witness said the doctor had walked out with his hands in the air, told the police he was a doctor and was instantly shot. Full BBC News report

Al Jazeera reports that Amnesty International's Director for East Africa Joan Nyanyuki said while the trial was a positive step towards accountability for some of his alleged crimes, 'he remains wanted for heinous crimes committed against the Sudanese people'.  Full Al Jazeera report

After almost nine months of violence and wrangling, Sudan on Saturday came a step closer to a civilian government after opposition leaders and military generals signed a power-sharing agreement in Khartoum. CNN reports that the choice of the feared head of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Dagalo, to sign the document, and the absence of women who played a crucial role in the protest movement, show that obstacles still remain in the path to full democracy. Full CNN report

Dagalo, who was al-Bashir's former right hand man in the bloody Darfur conflict, has overseen numerous crackdowns on protesters – including on 3 June when more than 100 people were killed outside the capital's military headquarters.

Mohammad Naji Al-Assam, spokesperson for the opposition party Forces for Freedom and Change said an independent committee would investigate atrocities against Sudanese people stretching back to when al-Bashir took power. ‘Revenge is not the way of this patriotic country,’ he said at the signing. ‘But it is time for accountability for all those who have committed oppression against Sudanese people.’

In a further encouraging development, Al Jazeera has been permitted to reopen its office in Khartoum, the Qatar-based media network has confirmed. The move coincides with the country moving closer to a civilian government after opposition leaders and military generals signed a power-sharing agreement in Khartoum this weekend.

When tensions rose in the country because of increased pressure by the Sudanese on the ruling junta to cede power, the authorities targeted the media. Security forces stormed the Al Jazeera office on 30 May and the credentials of its journalists were revoked. A report on the allAfrica site notes that offices of other international media companies were extensively searched but allowed to continue. During al-Bashir’s 30-year rule, several international media outlets were also not allowed to operate in Sudan.

An analyst has addressed the extraordinary role that social media played in Sudan's youth-led revolution which saw the army and civilian groups agree to a transitional government. ‘This is the first time I've seen a revolution truly led by the youth,’ said Omer Hadra, a 90-year-old protester.

Al Jazeera reports that he noted that each phase of the latest revolt was accompanied by the social media campaigns #SudanUprising and #KeepEyesOnSudan. US-based Sudan researcher and analyst Eric Reeves said images and video footage shared on social media ‘has been important to giving a reality to what is happening to the people of the uprising’. Since demonstrations began late last year, the most common chant was ‘tasgut bas’, in Arabic, which translates to ‘just fall’, calling for the removal of al-Bashir.

‘Without the #TasgutBas 'just fall' hashtag, our revolution and our message wouldn't have reached the world,’ said Althuraya Saad, another protester in Khartoum. Journalists, activists and human rights groups followed #SudanUprising, receiving updates in English, and the UN and Amnesty, among other the international organisations, condemned attacks on the protesters. Full Al Jazeera report

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