A video clip purporting to show Sudan’s deposed dictator Omar Al Bashir walking around the hospital he was transferred to from prison for health reasons has sparked a debate among the country’s social media users.
The clip, which shows the long-time ruler smiling and greeting patients, surfaced three years after his removal from power by his army generals following a popular uprising.
Al Bashir was convicted in December 2019 of corruption and sentenced to two years in a correctional centre. He has since been on trial for deposing a constitutional government when he led a 1989 coup and for ordering the killing of protesters during the 2018-19 uprising against his 29-year rule.
The 78-year-old was also indicted by the International Criminal Court more than a decade ago for genocide and crimes against humanity in the western Darfur region, where government forces and allied militiamen put down a revolt in the 2000s by ethnic Africans demanding an end to discrimination by the Arabized north.
Al Bashir was held at Khartoum’s Kobar prison until January this year. He was subsequently transferred to a military hospital after he contracted Covid-19, said his lawyer.
The former president, known to suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure, has since been at the hospital.
The authenticity of the video could not be independently verified. However, it has not been disputed by Al Bashir’s lawyers or family.
In the clip, he can be seen greeting visitors outside his hospital room, smiling, and walking around in what appeared to be a hospital ward while dressed in a traditional white robe. He can also be seen visiting a patient in a room.
"The former president's presence in the hospital is based on court-approved medical reports that advised hospital treatment for his condition," one of Al Bashir’s defence lawyers, Abdel Rahman Al khalifa, told Reuters.
The clip divided Sudanese social media users, some of whom wished Al Bashir a speedy recovery, while others berated authorities for allowing him to move freely or questioned his lawyers’ claim that his poor health required him to be in hospital.
"Let him visit whoever he likes, and walk through every hospital in the country, what's important is he will never rule this country again, and his judgement will be with God," commented one social media user.
Sudan is ruled by the generals who ousted Al Bashir in April 2019. They seized power in a coup last October after toppling a power-sharing administration between the military and civilian political parties and pro-democracy groups.
The coup has sparked near-daily street protests against military rule amid mounting charges that the generals, led by army chief Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, were allowing Al Bashir loyalists back in government jobs and the judiciary after their dismissal in the wake of the dictator’s exit.