Former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir went on trial in Khartoum Wednesday for staging the coup that brought him to power in 1989.
The former president, who was ousted from power by the military in April 2019 after mass protests across the country against his rule, faces the death penalty if convicted.
Tuesday’s hearing was adjourned until Aug. 11 before witnesses were called, in order to accommodate suspects, their lawyers, and family members of defendants in a larger courtroom during COVID-19 social distancing requirements, according to Zain Al Abideen Mohammed, one of Bashir’s defense lawyers.
“We noticed that the court hall is not conducive, social distancing could not be observed by our clients. There were 29 accused present, alongside 190 defense lawyers in addition to more than 10 indictment teams,” Mohamed told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.
Mohammed Ali Fazari, a Sudanese writer and editor in chief of the English-language newspaper Khartoum Today, called Wednesday’s proceedings “historic.”
“The judiciary system is now becoming an independent one and it can try people of the highest rank, and the other message is that for the international community, Sudan is no longer isolated because of the weakness of politicized judiciary systems,” Fazari told South Sudan in Focus.
Fazari predicted none of the accused will be set free due to the nature of their alleged crimes.
“[In] 30 years of the regime there are many atrocities and many crimes have been committed. So, these make all of them under the judiciary and under the law, particularly the Sudanese Criminal law,” Fazari told VOA.
Other defendants include 10 military officials, former Bashir vice presidents Ali Osman Taha and Bakri Hassan Saleh, and former ministers and governors, all of whom are accused of taking part in the coup.
The 76-year-old Bashir was indicted years ago by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for alleged war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity committed in the Darfur region. Sudanese officials had said they would hand over Bashir to the ICC but have yet to do so.
The former president has been jailed in Khartoum since his removal. He also faces charges of undermining the constitution and violating the Armed Forces Act, in addition to fomenting the 1989 coup that brought him to power.
Sudan’s transitional government is tasked with guiding the country to national elections under a 39-month power-sharing deal. The government has launched several reforms with the hope of regaining acceptance among the international community.
Source: Voice of America