World

Former president of Sudan sentenced to 2 years for corruption, money-laundering

A court in Sudan has convicted former president Omar al-Bashir of money laundering and corruption, sentencing him to two years in a minimum security lockup.

Verdict comes a year after protesters revolted against Omar al-Bashir's authoritarian rule

Sudan's deposed military ruler Omar al-Bashir stands in a defendant's cage during the opening of his corruption trial in Khartoum on Aug. 19, 2019. (Ebrahim Hamid/AFP via Getty Images)

A court in Sudan convicted former president Omar al-Bashir of money laundering and corruption on Saturday, sentencing him to two years in a minimum security lockup.

That's the first verdict in a series of legal proceedings against 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 began months of demonstrations against 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 was battered by years of mismanagement and American sanctions.

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.

Handover to Hague court unlikely

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

The Sudanese Professionals' Association, which was the backbone of the protest movement, welcomed Saturday's verdict as a "moral and political conviction" against the former president and his regime.

Under Sudanese law, Bashir, 75, will be sent to a state-run lockup for elderly people who are convicted of crimes not punishable with death. But he will remain in jail amid an ongoing trial on separate charges regarding the killing of protesters in the months prior to his ousting.

Omar al-Bashir, seen here a month before he was ousted from office last April by the military, backed by mass unrest, was promising to tackle the country's economic crisis that triggered months of large demonstrations against his rule. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty Images)

The former strongman appeared in the defendant's cage on Saturday 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.

As the verdict was read, a handful of Bashir's supporters briefly disrupted the proceedings, shouting Islamist slogans before being pushed out of the courtroom by security forces. Hundreds of Bashir's supporters also protested near the presidential palace in Khartoum, where security forces closed off access to the palace and the military's headquarters.

Defence lawyer Mohammed al-Hassan said Saturday's verdict was expected, but described it as "unjust."

Anti-government demonstrations erupted last December over steep price rises and shortages, but soon shifted to calls for Bashir to step down. Security forces responded with a fierce crackdown that killed dozens of protesters in the months prior to his ousting and arrest.

Millions of U.S. dollars, euros and Sudanese pounds were later seized from Bashir's home.

In August, Bashir told the court he had received through his office manager $25 million US from Saudi Arabia's 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.  Bashir, however, did not provide documents or records for the spending.

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