Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Sudan's Omar Al Bashir appears in public for first time since overthrow

The deposed leader faces charges of money laundering and is also wanted by the International Criminal Court

Sudan's ex-president Omar Al Bashir leaves the office of the anti-corruption prosecutor in Khartoum. Reuters
Sudan's ex-president Omar Al Bashir leaves the office of the anti-corruption prosecutor in Khartoum. Reuters

Ten weeks after he was removed from office by the military in the face of weeks of protest, former Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir appeared in public for the first time as he was led into a prosecutor’s office to face questions in a corruption investigation.

Mr Al Bashir stepped from prison to a Toyota Land Cruiser, wearing a traditional white robe and turban, and was led into the prosecutor’s office.

His 30 year rule came to an end in early April after four months of large protests led the army to intervene. Shortly after, the prosecutors said that the former leader had been found with suitcases filled with $351,000 and €6 million, as well as 5 million Sudanese pounds.

Since his arrest, Mr Al Bashir has been held by the military, first in a presidential palace and then later at a prison in the capital of Khartoum.

A judicial official with the prosecutor’s office said Mr Al Bashir was questioned during the Sunday appearance over accusations that include money laundering and the large amounts of foreign currency found in his home.

A spokesman with the military’s media office confirmed that this is the first time the former president was taken out from his prison in Khartoum.

The official SUNA news agency quoted a police spokesman as saying Mr Al Bashir’s defence lawyers attended the questioning and he returned to prison afterward.

The convoy transporting Sudan's ousted president Omar Al Bashir as he is taken from Kober prison in l Khartoum on June 16 2019. AFP
The convoy transporting Sudan's ousted president Omar Al Bashir as he is taken from Kober prison in l Khartoum on June 16 2019. AFP

As well as the corruption allegations, Mr Al-Bashir was charged in May with involvement in killing protesters and incitement to kill protesters during the mass uprising that started in December, initially over price increases of basic goods and a failing economy, but which later turned into calls for his ouster.

While Mr Al-Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges of war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in the 2000s, the military has said it would not extradite him to The Hague. He was the only sitting head of state for whom an international arrest warrant has been issued.

But on the streets of the capital, Sudan’s protest leaders called for night-time demonstrations and marches amid an ongoing tense standoff with the military ruling council that has led the country since Mr Al Bashir’s ouster.

The protest leaders said they’ve begun a “revolutionary escalation” to pressure the country’s generals to hand over power to civilians and to condemn the military’s violent dispersal of their sit-in camp in Khartoum earlier this month.

Dura Gambo, an activist with the Sudanese Professionals Association which has spearheaded the protest movement since December, said the movement’s leaders chose to return to the streets after they realised that the military “started to pull out of the previous deals.”

“There is a total impasse. The negotiations have been suspended, internet services remain blocked, and Ethiopian mediations apparently did not make progress,” she said.

Meanwhile, the deputy head of Sudan’s ruling military council pushed back against demands from protest leaders over the composition of a proposed transitional legislative body.

Gen Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo said a legislative body formed with a majority from protest movement leaders, who seek civilian rule, is a problem because it is not formed by elections.

He said that “our problem is a non-elected legislative body which would root out all of us.”

This would suggest a reversal to previous deals between the military and protest leaders, which included a three-year transition period, a Cabinet appointed by the protester leaders, and a legislative body with a civilian majority.

Gen Dagalo also said those responsible for the bloody break-up of the protesters’ sit-in outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum on June 3 would be given the death sentence.

“We are working hard to take those who did this to the gallows,” he said.

The ruling generals have said several military officers are in custody for alleged “deviation” from the action plan set by their leaders to clear a problematic area, known as Colombia, near the sit-in area.

Protest organizers say at least 128 people were killed and hundreds were wounded during the razing of the camp and the subsequent clampdown by the security forces. The military-backed authorities say 61 people died, including three members of the security forces.

Gen Dagalo’s comments on the legislative body came less than a week after an Ethiopian envoy to Sudan said that all previous deals between the generals and protest leaders, despite the break in talks earlier this month, have been restored.

The Arab League chief, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, arrived in Khartoum on Sunday to meet with both sides.

Mr Aboul Gheit told reporters that he had met with the head of the military council, Gen Abdel-Fattah Burhan, to discuss ways to break the political impasse.

Updated: June 17, 2019 07:18 PM

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