The trial of Sudan’s autocratic former president Omar al-Bashir on corruption and money laundering charges was adjourned for one week following testimony from several witnesses Saturday.
Al-Bashir, who appeared in court in a cage, was ousted by the military in April after months of mass protests against his three-decade authoritarian rule. So far, the military says he won’t be extradited to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he faces charges of war crimes and genocide linked to the Darfur conflict in the 2000s.
The current trial, which began last week, is separate from charges against al-Bashir regarding the killing of protesters during the popular uprising. The proceedings are open, though no members of the public were seen in the courtroom Saturday.
Sudan’s new joint military-civilian council — formed earlier this week — has given no indication it will change the decision to keep al-Bashir in the capital, Khartoum, where he’s been in custody.
The trial is being held at the Judicial and legal Science institute. The ex-president appeared in court wearing a traditional white robe and turban and arrived in a white Land Cruiser SUV amid tight security.
At least three witnesses testified Saturday regarding the corruption-related charges against al-Bashir. They included a prosecutor, an army major and a bank employee, the official said.
The accusations focus on alleged money laundering and millions of U.S. dollars, euros and Sudanese pounds that were seized in his home at the time of his arrest.
Prosecutor Mustafa Abdallah Mahmoud said an investigation began April 16 when military intelligence informed the prosecutor’s office they found “funds and foreign and Sudanese currency in the house of the accused.”
“These amounts existed illegally,” he told the court.
Al-Bashir’s defence attorneys called for the former president to be released on bail. Judge al-Sadik al-Amin al-Feki said the court would review the request.
Ali Adam Mohammed, a defence attorney, said they would be “satisfied” with any verdict “whether in favour of the indictment or the defence” of al-Bashir.
Dozens of al-Bashir supporters demonstrated near the courthouse, waving signs that read: “The trial of the president is the trial of the nation.” Inside the courthouse, a group of people were heard shouting: “God is great” in Arabic.
The current trial will not touch on separate charges against al-Bashir regarding the killing of protesters during the popular uprising. The corruption hearings began last week and are set to resume Aug. 31. The official SUNA news agency said at least two army officers would testify in next week’s hearing.
Al-Bashir testified last week that he had received tens of millions of dollars in cash from Saudi Arabia, including $25 million from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Human Rights Watch said Friday that the national trial “should not overshadow the pressing need for accountability for gross human rights violations and atrocity crimes in Darfur and elsewhere.”
Sudan’s military reached a power-sharing deal last week with the protesters, who had remained in the streets after al-Bashir’s ouster while negotiating with the military over a transition to civilian rule. The agreements established an administration that will rule Sudan during a three-year transition period toward democratic elections.