Sudan trial defence rejects case against ousted Bashir

AFP . Tue, October 20, 2020, 2:03 PM GMT+2
The trial of Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir and others over a 1989 coup heard defence arguments Tuesday dismissing charges of illegal use of military force.

The latest hearing coincided with a mission to Khartoum by a team from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has sought for almost a decade to try Bashir for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

It was held as Sudan celebrated a US decision to remove the country from Washington’s blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism.

The ex-president and 27 others are being tried in Khartoum accused of plotting the 1989 Islamist-backed military coup that brought him to power.

“The next hearing will be held on November 3 to resume listening to defence lawyers’ arguments responding to the accusations,” said judge Essam Ibrahim.

Defence lawyers in the latest hearing refuted accusations by Sudan’s prosecutor general Tagelsir al-Hebr against Bashir and the other defendants.

Hebr has accused them of multiple charges including undermining constitutional order and using military force to commit a crime.

Most of defence team walked out of the previous hearing in protest at alleged bias on the part of the prosecutor general.

On Tuesday, defence lawyer Serageldin Hamed stressed what he termed “the illegality and unconstitutionality of the public prosecutor overseeing the filing of charges”.

Bashir held power for 30 years until his overthrow on April 11, 2019 following unprecedented mass youth-led street demonstrations.

It is the first time in modern Arab history that the leader of a coup has been put on trial.

If convicted, Bashir and his co-accused — including former top officials — could face the death penalty.

Since his ouster, Bashir has been jailed in Khartoum’s high security Kober prison and was found guilty last December of corruption.

He has also indicted by the ICC over the Darfur conflict that erupted in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms, accusing Khartoum of political and economic marginalisation of their vast region.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict in western Sudan.

Sudanese officials have since Saturday held talks with the visiting ICC team on options for trying Bashir over Darfur, including his handover or the formation of a hybrid court.

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