CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir was back in court Tuesday, this time facing charges of plotting the 1989 Islamist-backed coup that removed an elected government and brought him to power.
Dozens of people, mostly al-Bashir supporters, gathered outside the courthouse in the capital, Khartoum, amid tight security as the former president was brought from jail and the proceedings got underway. Al-Bashir appeared in court wearing a traditional white robe and turban.
Shortly after the proceedings opened, the trial was adjourned till Aug. 11 so that the defense lawyers could prepare their arguments, said attorney Mohammed al-Hassan who is on al-Bashir’s defense team.
The military overthrew al-Bashir in April 2019 amid massive public protests against his rule. Months after the overthrow, the army generals and a pro-democracy movement behind the protests set up a transitional government.
The 76-year-old al-Bashir has been jailed in Khartoum since his ouster, facing several separate trials related to his rule and the uprising that helped oust him. He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in the 2000s.
Sudan’s transitional authorities announced in February that they have agreed to hand over al-Bashir to the ICC to face justice, as part of a deal with rebels to surrender all those wanted in connection with the Darfur conflict. But since that announcement, there has been no follow-up action on his extradition.
In one of he cases he faces in Khartoum, al-Bashir was convicted last December of money laundering and corruption and sentenced to two years in a minimum security lockup.
In Tuesday’s case, prosecutors accuse al-Bashir of plotting the 1989 coup that ousted the elected government of Prime Minister al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, according to the state-run SUNA news agency.
Al-Bashir is on trial along with over two dozen top officials in his government, including former vice president, Ali Ossman Taha, and former defense minister, Abdel-Rahim Muhammad Hussein, who is also wanted by the ICC over the Darfur conflict.
Al-Hassan, the lawyer, said coups “happen historically, from time to time,” referencing the many upheavals since Sudan gained independence in 1956.
“We think that there is no case” for something that is part of Sudan’s history, he said.
During his three-decade rule, al-Bashir kept an iron grip on power and brutally suppressed any opposition, while monopolizing the economy through allied businessmen.
After years of war, he was forced to allow the secession of South Sudan, a huge blow to the north’s economy. He became an international pariah over the bloodletting in Darfur and the United States targeted his government repeatedly with sanctions and airstrikes for his support of Islamic militants.