Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sudan ex-president al-Bashir sentenced to 2 years for corruption

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A court in Sudan convicted former President Omar al-Bashir of money laundering and corruption on Saturday, sentencing him to two years in a minimum security lockup.

That’s the first verdict in a series of legal proceedings against al-Bashir, who is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in the 2000s.

The verdict comes a year after Sudanese protesters erupted in revolt against al-Bashir’s authoritarian rule. During his three decades in power, Sudan landed on the U.S. list for sponsoring terrorism, and the country’s economy was battered by years of mismanagement and American sanctions.

Al-Bashir has been in custody since April, when Sudan’s military ousted him after months of nationwide protests. The uprising eventually forced the military into a power-sharing agreement with civilians.

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Sudan’s military has said it would not extradite him to the ICC. The country’s military-civilian transitional government has not indicated whether they will hand him over to the The Hague.

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which was the backbone of the protest movement, welcomed Saturday’s verdict as a “moral and political conviction” against the former president and his regime.

Under Sudanese law, al-Bashir, 75, will be sent to a state-run lockup for elderly people who are convicted of crimes not punishable with death. But he will remain in jail amid an ongoing trial on separate charges regarding the killing of protesters in the months prior to his ouster.

The former strongman appeared in the defendant’s cage on Saturday wearing a traditional white robe and turban. He had arrived in a white Land Cruiser SUV amid tight security at the Judicial and Legal Science Institute in the capital, Khartoum.

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As the verdict was read, a handful of al-Bashir’s supporters briefly disrupted the proceedings, shouting Islamist slogans before being pushed out of the courtroom by security forces.

Hundreds of al-Bashir’s supporters also protested near the presidential palace in Khartoum, where security forces closed off access to the palace and the military’s headquarters.

Defense lawyer Mohammed al-Hassan said Saturday’s verdict was expected and that an appeal would be filed before a higher court, adding that the ex-president’s “morale is high.”

Al-Hassan also said security forces detained al-Bashir’s second wife, Widad Babakr, last week for questioning about her alleged bank accounts and assets. That’s part of a wider corruption-related investigation into the al-Bashir family’s wealth. Babakr had been under house arrest in Khartoum since al-Bashir’s overthrow.

Prosecutors had questioned al-Bashir last week over his role in the Islamist-backed military coup which brought him to power in 1989.

Anti-government demonstrations erupted last December over steep price rises and shortages, but soon shifted to calls for al-Bashir to step down. Security forces responded with a fierce crackdown that killed dozens of protesters in the months prior to his ouster and arrest.

Millions of U.S. dollars, euros and Sudanese pounds were later seized in al-Bashir’s home.

In August, al-Bashir told the court he had received through his office manager $25 million from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

He said the crown prince did not want to reveal that he was the source of the funds, so he did not deposit the money in the country’s central bank.

He said the money was being used for donations not for his own benefit. Al-Bashir however did not provide documents or records for the spending.

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