Former Sudan strongman Omar Al-Bashir gets 2 years for corruption

Sudan’s ex-president Omar Al-Bashir is charged with illegally acquiring and using foreign funds, and could be sent to prison for up to 10 years if found guilty. (AFP)
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Updated 15 December 2019

Former Sudan strongman Omar Al-Bashir gets 2 years for corruption

  • Verdict comes a year after protesters first began their revolt against Bashir’s three-decade authoritarian rule
  • Trial did not relate to charges he faces at International Criminal Court

KHARTOUM: Sudan's former president Omar Al-Bashir was sentenced Saturday to two years' detention in a correctional centre for corruption in the first of several cases against the ousted autocrat.

Bashir, who was deposed by the army in April after months of mass protests against his three-decade rule, appeared in court in a metal cage wearing a traditional white jalabiya and turban for the verdict.

He was convicted of "corruption" and "possession of foreign currency", judge Al Sadiq Abdelrahman said, charges which can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Instead the court, taking into account his age, ordered the 75-year-old to serve two years in a correctional centre for the elderly.

"Under the law, those who reached the age of 70 shall not serve jail terms," the judge said.

Bashir will serve his sentence after the verdict has been reached in another case in which he is accused of ordering the killing of demonstrators during the protests that led to his ouster, the judge said.

The court also ordered the confiscation of 6.9 million euros, $351,770 and 5.7 million Sudanese pounds ($128,000) found at Bashir's home.

The Sudanese Professionals Association -- the group that initially led protests against Bashir -- welcomed the verdict on Twitter.

"This is not over for Bashir -- there are other cases" to answer, it added.

The ex-president will appeal the verdict, said one of his lawyers, Ahmed Ibrahim.

Outside the court, several dozen Bashir supporters gathered chanting: "There is no god but God."

Hundreds more holding banners reading "Down, down the government" marched in central Khartoum where there was a heavy security presence, before dispersing.

Sudan is now ruled by a joint civilian and military sovereign council, which is tasked with overseeing a transition to civilian rule.

The authorities announced Saturday the dissolution of professional organisations put in place under Bashir -- one of the demands of the protest movement that unseated him.

The trial does not relate to charges Bashir faces at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Bashir has been wanted by the ICC for years for his role in the Darfur war that broke out in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against his Arab-dominated government which they accused of marginalising the region.

Human rights groups say Khartoum targeted suspected pro-rebel ethnic groups with a scorched earth policy, raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

The Darfur conflict left around 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, according to the United Nations. After Bashir was toppled, ICC prosecutors requested he stand trial for the killings in Darfur.

Army generals who initially seized power after the president's fall refused to hand him over.

But Sudan's umbrella protest movement, which now has significant representation on a sovereign council that in August became the country's highest executive authority -- recently said it has no objection to his extradition.

Separately, on November 12, Sudanese authorities filed charges against Bashir and some of his aides for "plotting" the 1989 coup that brought him to power.

In May, Sudan's attorney general said Bashir had been charged with the deaths of those killed during the anti-regime demonstrations that led to his ouster, without specifying when he would face trial.


Libya’s Tripoli government seizes last LNA stronghold near capital

Updated 17 min 9 sec ago

Libya’s Tripoli government seizes last LNA stronghold near capital

  • Military sources in Haftar’s Libyan National Army said their forces had withdrawn from the town of Tarhouna
  • The advance extends the control of the Government of National Accord

TRIPOLI: Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government captured the last major stronghold of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar near Tripoli on Friday, capping the sudden collapse of his 14-month offensive on the capital.
Military sources in Haftar’s Libyan National Army, LNA, said their forces had withdrawn from the town of Tarhouna. They headed toward Sirte, far along the coast, and the air base of Al-Jufra in central Libya. The LNA made no immediate official comment.
The advance extends the control of the Government of National Accord, GNA, and allied forces across most of northwest Libya, reversing many of Haftar’s gains from last year when he raced toward Tripoli.
The United Nations has started holding talks with both sides for a cease-fire deal in recent days, though previous truces have not stuck. The GNA gains could entrench the de facto partition of Libya into zones controlled by rival eastern and western governments whose foreign backers compete for regional sway.
Turkish military support for the GNA, with drone strikes, air defenses and a supply of allied Syrian fighters, was key to its recent successes. Ankara regards Libya as crucial to defending its interests in the eastern Mediterranean.
However, the LNA still retains its foreign support. Washington said last week Moscow had sent warplanes to LNA-held Jufra, though Russia and the LNA denied this.
The United Nations says weapons and fighters have flooded into the country in defiance of an arms embargo, risking a deadlier escalation. Meanwhile, a blockade of oil ports by eastern-based forces has almost entirely cut off energy revenue and both administrations face a looming financial crisis.
Stronghold

Located in the hills southeast of Tripoli, Tarhouna had functioned as a forward base for Haftar’s assault on the capital. Its swift fall suggests Haftar’s foreign supporters were less willing to sustain his bid to take over the entire country once Turkey intervened decisively to stop him.
The GNA operations room said in a statement that its forces had captured Tarhouna after entering from four sides. Abdelsalam Ahmed, a resident, said GNA forces had entered the town.
Videos and photographs posted online appeared to show GNA forces inside Tarhouna cheering and hugging each other and firing into the air.
“The Libyan government forces are rapidly moving in an organized manner and with armed drones. There could be a solution at the table, but Haftar’s forces are losing ground in every sense,” said a Turkish official.