Sudan: The Last Days of Bashir in the Palace, New Days in Court

The moment millions of Sudanese entered into the vicinity of the General Command of the Army Headquarters on 6 April, the deposed former President al-Bashir was sitting on a chair with another set of empty chairs around him in the courtyard of his residence. Outside his presidential palace overlooking the Nile, protests against his rule intensified, eventually ousting him five days later.

Ayin conducted an exclusive interview with close confidants of the former president that worked within the presidential palace. The sources described to Ayin the scene they saw of the former president just days prior to his arrest. The names of these sources remain confidential for their security.

To curb stress, former president Bashir pulled tattered strings off his Muslim skull cap while three of his presidential aides entered the room. The conversation was stilted and everyone sat in awkward silence. To cut the tension, according to a witness, one of the two aides attempted to make small talk about Bashir's cap, noting the colour and how it was the first time to see the former president wearing such a hat. Bashir responded by noting the skull cap was the "fashion of the day" and were worn among young people. Gaining access to the presidential palace and then Al-Bashir's residence was challenging for the three presidential aides -loud protests calling for Bashir to step down could be heard all around them.

They were convinced that they must meet and console the former president in the palace at this difficult time, according to one of the aides. While driving tinted-window cars through the alleyways of central Khartoum to reach al-Bashir's residence, the three aides could see the multitude of protestors and realised their days of employment were numbered. None of them could have predicted the turnout against the former president. The short distance from the presidential palace to the guest house where Bashir resided seemed longer than ever, the aide told Ayin. The short road appeared to represent the end of Bashir's 30-year regime.

The aides entered the former president's residence at around 5 pm on 6 April where Bashir and his guards sat on full alert, covering the entrances, fearing an attack. A tear gas grenade could be heard outside from security forces in a futile attempt to disperse a crowd of millions in front of the army command post. Bashir could clearly hear the crowds chanting outside, calling for his ouster, according to the inside sources.

Abdallah al-Bashir, the President's brother, appeared with a number of Bashir's bodyguards, and after the salute, he whispered in the president's ear and called on the guards accompanying him to return to the palace. It turned out that he was accompanying them to the roof of the new palace building inside the general command of the army, where he was monitoring the masses outside and relaying what he saw to his brother. According to one of the former president's aides, he had never seen Bashir appear so weak and distraught.

Another witness Ayin spoke to claims he saw the former head of security, Salah Gosh, speak to Bashir, allegedly promising to clear the area of the protestors outside his residence. But this never took place.

The break up that did not break

On 7 April, the security committee told President Bashir of their decision to break up the sit-in in front of the army headquarters. Bashir gathered his family and informed them of the decision and asked his relatives who were with him in the guest house to leave the palace and ordered his younger brother, Musaab, to stay with him, according to the two confidential sources that spoke to Ayin.

While waiting for the commencement of the security operation to break up the sit-in, Musaab and others went up to the roof of the palace to see the operation and how it was being carried out. Musab was accompanied by a number of the former president's guards and security officers. Bullets could be heard. The source of bullets was not known to them before they learned moments later that an army force sided with the revolutionaries and exchanged fire with the security forces and even repulsed them to keep the sit-in going.

This was a difficult reality for those who planned to break up the sit-in and waited for the hour of victory to return directly from the top of their building to inform the former president that the operation had been successful. Instead, no genuine counter-attack against the protestors took place and Bashir would eventually find himself re-accommodated from a palace to a prison where he is currently facing trial.

On trial at home, possibly abroad

On 30 August during Bashir's third trial session, the court indicted Bashir on charges of suspicious enrichment and illegal dealing with foreign exchange. This follows charges in May with incitement and involvement in the killing of protestors during the demonstrations that led to his overthrow in April.

Far from the glittery walls of the palace, the former president now sits in a cage in front of Justice Al Sadiq Abdul Rahman who refused a bail request, citing the law preventing such a measure for crimes that involve prison sentences that potentially exceed 10 years.

But Bashir may face further trials in a different setting. According to the spokesperson of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Bashir's 2009 arrest warrant for crimes against humanity under the ICC remains valid. "The court has and will continue seeking the compliance of Sudan with its obligation under international law and in relation to the resolution 1539 of the United Nations Security Council," ICC Spokesperson Fadi el Abdallah told Ayin. Bashir's trial will resume tomorrow while a future trial at the Hague may become a reality if Sudan's justice system cannot demonstrate a genuine national investigation and prosecution will take place, Abdallah added.

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