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Saturday, September 26, 2020

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Court jails Sudan’s Omar al Bashir for corruption

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

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 launched their 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 has been 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.

Under Sudanese law, al-Bashir, 75, will be sent to a state-run rehabilitation facility for elderly people who are convicted of crimes not punishable with death.

Before the verdict was read, supporters of al-Bashir briefly disrupted the proceedings and were pushed out of the courtroom by security forces. The ex-president appeared in the defendant’s cage 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.

The former strongman was charged earlier this year with money laundering, after millions of U.S. dollars, euros and Sudanese pounds were seized in his home shortly after his ouster.

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

The corruption trial is separate from charges against al-Bashir regarding the killing of protesters during the uprising.

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.

Saturday’s verdict, which capped monthslong trial, could be appealed before a higher court.

In August, al-Bashir told the court that he received through his office manager $25 million from Saudi Arabia 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. At least $2 million went to a military hospital and $3 million to a university, he said.

Al-Bashir said $5 million was given to the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary unit that grew out of the feared Janjaweed militias unleashed during the Darfur conflict.

The RSF is led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, who is also a member of the newly appointed Sovereign Council that is to rule Sudan during its three-year transition.

Protesters accuse the RSF of leading the crackdown against them, including the June break-up of their sit-in camp in Khartoum.

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