A criminal court in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, has sentenced ousted Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, to detention at a rehabilitation facility.
The court, which convened on December 14, initially sentenced Bashir for ten years in prison on charges of financial corruption. It then commuted the sentence to two years and ordered him placed at a facility for the elderly, given his old age, 75.
The verdict brings to an end the trial of the man who ruled Sudan with iron and fire for three decades before his ouster in April this year, following months of mass protests by Sudanese citizens. It is an unprecedented event in Sudan’s modern history and many of those listening to the judge reading out the verdict could not believe their ears, given Bashir’s terrifying legacy.
Nevertheless, many of the same people viewed the verdict as too light for the crimes Bashir committed against the people of his country over his three decades of rule. Sudanese activist, Wayel Nasreddin, described the verdict as “humiliating”.
Osman Merghani, the editor-in-chief of the independent Sudanese daily, al-Tayar, said Bashir deserved to be punished for the crimes he committed against people in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.
“The problem is that judges always rule in the light of the evidence presented to them,” Merghani said. “Sorry to say, the judges looking into the infringements of the ex-president were not given enough evidence to give him a heavier sentence.” The prosecution, legal experts say, should have taken more time in collecting sufficient evidence against Bashir.
The same legal experts fault ordinary Sudanese citizens in wanting to give the man a political trial, without presenting enough proof to indict him, even as this proof is manifest in the beggaring of Sudan for decades and the purposeful abuse of its political and economic life.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court. The court issued arrest warrants against him in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Darfur between 2003 and 2008. The roots of the December 14 verdict go back to April this year when a Sudanese army unit raided Bashir’s residence in Khartoum.
After notifying the then-president of the decision of the army command to arrest him, the unit found a large amount of cash in the residence, including millions of US dollars and Euros. This was shocking for tens of thousands of people on the streets, given the acute foreign currency shortage their country suffered at the time.
On the trial day, Bashir sat inside the courtroom cage and looked while witnesses delivered their testimonies. The ousted septuagenarian former ruler’s eyes were full of sorrow as the judges read out the verdict. The court also ordered the confiscation of the money found at Bashir’s residence at the time of his arrest. The court’s decisions come a year after protests erupted across Sudan against Bashir’s 30-year rule.
The ousted Sudanese leader has since then been in Kober, the very jail in Khartoum where he sent his political opponents to for years. Basher’s sentencing does not bring legal proceedings against him to an end. He may reappear in court soon.
In May this year, he was accused of incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters during months of protests against his rule. Earlier this week, he appeared in court to answer questions about the role he played in the military coup that took place in Sudan in 1989. The same coup propelled Bashir to power and Sudan to an uncertain future. Nevertheless, this man’s sentencing gives millions of Sudanese citizens hope that their country’s justice system can be functional.
It shows them that nobody can go with a crime in the new Sudan, regardless of who he is. The verdict against him also functions as a deterrent for Sudan’s new political elite as it tries to put this poor African country together, following decades of Bashir’s one-man rule, analysts said.