Omar Al Bashir charged in court over illegal use of foreign funds

Deposed president faces more than 10 years in jail over millions in foreign currency found at his home

Sudan's former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir smiles as he is seen inside a cage at the courthouse where he is facing corruption charges, in Khartoum, Sudan August 31, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
Powered by automated translation

Sudan's ousted president Omar Al Bashir was charged in court Saturday with illegal acquisition and use of foreign funds, offences that could land him behind bars for more than a decade.

Mr Al Bashir, who was deposed in April following months of mass protests against his rule, entered the courtroom pointing his index finger to the sky as dozens of relatives attended chanted "Allahu Akbar".

Judge Al Sadiq Abdelrahman outlined the charges at what was the third session of the former president's  trial, saying cash in multiple currencies was uncovered at his home.

Authorities had "seized 6.9 million euros, $351,770 and 5.7 million Sudanese pounds at [Bashir's] home which he acquired and used illegally", Mr Abdelrahman said.

Speaking for the first time in court, Mr Al Bashir said the seized funds were the remainder of $25 million received from a donor abroad who did not want to be identified, which was why the funds were not deposited with the central bank or the finance ministry.

He did not say when he received the funds, but said they "were not used for private interests but as donations" to support individuals and entities including wheat import companies, a university and a hospital.

Judge Abdelrahman said Sudanese law punished illegal acquisition of wealth by up to 10 years in jail, while illicit use of foreign funds carries up to three years.

Mr Al Bashir's lawyers insisted their client was "not guilty" and said witnesses would be brought before the court.

"We have witnesses, proof and documents that we will present to court to refute these charges," said lawyer Ahmed Ibrahim Al Taher.

After two and a half hours, the judge ordered that the trial be adjourned until September 7.

Mr Al Bashir was escorted to and from the Khartoum courthouse by a convoy of military vehicles.

Dozens of his supporters gathered outside waving Sudanese flags.

Afer he was deposed, Mr Al Bashir was transferred to the capital's maximum-security Kobar prison, where thousands of political prisoners were held during his 30 years in power.

Sudan has embarked on a transition to civilian rule following a power-sharing deal signed on August 17 by protest leaders and the generals who ousted Mr Al Bashir.

A civilian-military ruling body is now at the helm to steer the country through a three-year transition period.

Protesters have called for Mr Al Bashir to face justice not just over corruption but for his role in the country's deadly conflicts and for stifling dissent.

Sudan's prosecutor general has said he would also be charged over the killings during the anti-regime protests which eventually led to his overthrow.