Sudan’s Bashir on trial over 1989 coup that brought him to power

Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown last year by the military in the face of mass protests against his rule, is set to go on trial over his role in a coup that brought him to power more than 30 years ago.

Al-Bashir, 76, is scheduled to appear in court in the capital, Khartoum, on Tuesday to face charges of undermining the constitution, violating the Armed Forces Act and fomenting a coup in 1989 against the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.

“This trial will be a warning to anyone who tries to destroy the constitutional system,” said Moaz Hadra, one of the lawyers who led the push to bring the case to court.

“This will safeguard Sudanese democracy. In this way, we hope to bring an end to the era of putsches in Sudan.”

Al-Bashir, who has been jailed in Khartoum since his overthrow, will be in the dock with 10 military personnel and six civilians, including his former vice presidents, Ali Osman Taha and Bakri Hassan Saleh, as well as former ministers and governors.

They are all accused of having plotted the June 30, 1989, coup during which the army arrested Sudan’s political leaders, suspended Parliament and other state bodies, closed the airport and announced the putsch on the radio.

The man dubbed the true brain behind the military coup, Hassan al-Turabi of the National Islamic Front, died in 2016.

Al-Bashir stayed in power for almost 30 years before being overthrown on April 11 last year after several months of unprecedented, pro-democracy demonstrations that eventually forced the creation of a joint civilian-military ruling “sovereign council”.

Al-Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), facing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed by pro-government forces in Darfur. Sudan’s new governing authorities, which are tasked with leading the country to elections under a 39-month power-sharing agreement, have yet to hand him over to the ICC for prosecution.

Al-Bashir is also being investigated over the killing of protesters while, in December, a Sudanese court handed him a first, two-year sentence on corruption charges.

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