A court in Sudan on Thursday found several former government officials and current politicians not guilty of instigating violence and undermining the transitional period that followed the ousting of Omar Al Bashir.
The verdict comes three years after the dictator was overthrown on 11 April, 2019 after 30 years in power.
Some of the 13 acquitted were officials of the former ruling National Congress Party, including Ibrahim Ghandour, a former foreign minister under Al Bashir. Islamist politician Mohamed Ali Al Gazouli, the head of State of Law and Development party, one of the political entities that sprang to political life in 2019, was also on the list.
Speaking to reporters and local media after the case, the defence lawyer Abdalla Derf said the charges were baseless and politically motivated and that the court had ordered the immediate release of his clients.
This is not the first acquittal of former officials who served under Al Bashir.
In January, a court acquitted Othman Mohamed Youssef Kibr, the dictator's former deputy at the NCP. He faced charges of corruption and squandering public finances.
Those acquitted on Thursday had been arrested in sporadic raids over the past three years and faced a common charge of undermining Sudan’s transition to democracy, a period that started only days after Al Bashir was toppled.
Sudan is witnessing growing unrest as thousands of citizens have been taking to the streets to protest against the military takeover of the civilian-led government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
The protesters insist on civilian rule. Both sides have blamed each other for the country’s financial and social woes.
The military takeover has led the US and international development agencies to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and budgetary support.
Anti-coup activists say the release of the officials was orchestrated by military authorities to drum up support from a cohort of politicians of various political ideologies.
The army has rejected these accusations and said repeatedly it has launched a campaign to purge its ranks of Al Bashir loyalists.
It has held civilian politicians accountable for “hijacking” the decision-making process, which forced the military to intervene to correct the course of the revolution.
"The release of the leader of the NCP, Ibrahim Ghandour, and those with him indicates that the October 25 coup was prepared in full coordination between the generals and Al Bashir's party," Sudanese author and anti-coup activist Mohammed Mustafa told The National. "This would fuel more anger against General Al-Burhan, who claimed in his coup statement that what he had done was corrective movement for the December revolution."
In 2019, Al Bashir was sentenced to two years in detention after being found guilty of corruption.
ICC holds first Darfur trial
He’s still in the high-security Kober prison in Khartoum as he also faces charges of being involved in the killing of protesters during the street demonstrations, which he denies.
More than 10 years ago, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Al Bashir to face charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity over his role in the conflict in the western region of Darfur.
On Tuesday, the trial of a Sudanese leader of a Darfur militia known as Janjaweed opened in the ICC. He faced charges of war crimes in Darfur.
Ali Muhammad Ali Abd—Al Rahman, 72, also known as Ali Kushayb, pleaded innocent to all 31 charges for the crimes allegedly committed between August 2003 and 2004.