- If Bashir is convicted under Article 96, he may face the death penalty, according to a representative of the accused.
- Among the most prominent defendants are Bashir and two of his Vice Presidents.
- Bashir’s defense team, which is comprised of 150 lawyers, says it is a "political trial."
Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and 16 others appeared on Tuesday morning before a special court of three judges in Khartoum, on charges of overthrowing the elected government in 1989. The case is the first of its kind that could lead to the death penalty, according to prosecutors.
“The accused are brought to trial under Article 96 of the Sudanese Criminal Law of 1983, which is undermining the constitutional system and Article 78 of the same law, which is participation in the criminal act,” said Moaz Hadra, one of the lawyers in the case.
If Bashir is convicted under Article 96, he may face the death penalty, according to a representative of the accused. The representative stressed that “we have strong evidence against the accused,” explaining that “it is the first time in Sudan that a military coup is brought to trial.”
The Sudanese army toppled Bashir in April 2019, following popular protests that lasted for several months. Sudan currently has a transitional authority that will last for three years, after which general elections will be held.
In May 2019, lawyers moved the case. Later, in March, the Attorney General formed a commission to investigate the 1989 coup, and a joint indictment commission was established.
The Most Prominent Defendants in the Case
Among the most prominent defendants in the case are Bashir’s Vice-Presidents, Ali Osman Taha, and Bakri Hassan Saleh, in addition to military and civilians who assumed ministerial positions and ruled states during the era of the former president.
“Al-Bashir and Bakri Hassan Saleh refused to speak with the investigation committee, yet they will appear before the court,” he said.
Bashir’s coup was the third since Sudan’s independence in 1956, after two coups by Ibrahim Abboud (1959-1964) and Jaafar Nimeiri (1969-1985). Bashir seized power from an elected government, headed by Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Umma Party, the most prominent Sudanese party.
Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against humanity during the conflict in the western Darfur region, which caused 300,000 deaths and millions of displaced people.
Last December, Bashir was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to two years in a social reform home. “The trial sends a message to everyone who tries to undermine the constitutional order that it is criminalized and this represents protection for democracy,” he said.
Bashir’s defense team, which is comprised of 150 lawyers, says it is a “political trial.” Hashem al-Jaali, one of the defense team’s lawyers says, “our view of the trial is that it is political, dressed in law, and is also taking place in a hostile atmosphere for the accused by law enforcement,”
Al-Jali said that “these facts are obsolete since they occurred more than ten years ago.” He believed that “the trial targets the Sudanese Islamic movement and they want to stigmatize it with terrorism, but we have evidence that refutes this and that it is slander.”
In his military coup in 1989, Bashir won the support of the National Islamic Front, led by Hassan al-Turabi, who died in 2016.
Al-Jali defended Al-Bashir, noting that he had a national reconciliation with the rebel leader in South Sudan by signing a peace agreement in 2005 under the auspices of the United Nations, the League of Arab States, the African Union and the European Union.”
On the other hand, this trial became a source of relief for Salah Matar, who at the time of the coup was the director of internal security, but he was referred to retirement a week after Bashir came to power.
“Six months before the coup,” Matar said, “we detected meetings of the National Islamic Front as it was preparing for a coup against the elected government. We prepared a report and submitted it to Interior Minister Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi at the time, but he ignored the report.”