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Al-Bashir to Appear in Court to Face Graft Charges

KHARTOUM, Sudan — The ousted president of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, will soon appear in court to face charges of corruption and possessing foreign currency, the country’s acting prosecutor general said Saturday.

Corruption cases have also been opened against 41 other former officials, the prosecutor, Alwaleed Sayed Ahmed, said at a news conference in Khartoum. He said Mr. al-Bashir would be referred for trial at the hearing after a one-week period for objections expires.

A court appearance by Mr. al-Bashir might ease continued speculation about his fate among many Sudanese. He has not been seen in public since he was toppled by his own generals on April 11, following months of tumultuous protests led by young Sudanese frustrated with his 30-year rule.

Generals said Mr. al-Bashir was initially put under house arrest at his residence in the military headquarters and was later transferred to the notorious Kober prison, on the north bank of the Nile, where for years he detained his own enemies.

[Read about the rise to power of Mr. al-Bashir’s successor, Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, the leader of a militia accused of genocidal violence in Darfur.]

But the military has refused to produce any proof of Mr. al-Bashir’s incarceration, either in the form of photographs or by allowing Western officials access to him. That has stoked suspicions among many Sudanese that Mr. al-Bashir is not being held at all. Rumors have circulated that he was quietly spirited to a wealthy Persian Gulf country, like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.

The rumors and distrust are a function of tensions between the protest leaders, who are demanding an immediate transition to civilian rule in Sudan, and the generals who seized power from Mr. al-Bashir and have refused to let go.

A brutal crackdown by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on June 3, when troops killed scores of people in a sweep of the main protest area in Khartoum, suggested to many that while Mr. al-Bashir may be gone, the generals he empowered are determined to maintain their sway.

The corruption charges Mr. al-Bashir faces in Sudan are unrelated to his decade-old indictment by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The ruling junta says it will not send Mr. al-Bashir to face those charges at the international court in The Hague. Such a move would be popular, however, with many civilian protesters, especially those from Darfur, where Mr. al-Bashir’s battle tactics led to at least 300,000 deaths.

For the military, a trial of Mr. al-Bashir might relieve the intense international criticism it has faced since the bloody crackdown on June 3. The new American envoy to Sudan, Donald Booth, met the junta leader, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, on Thursday to press the military to halt attacks on civilians.

The conversation with General al-Burhan was “about as frank and direct as possible,” Tibor P. Nagy, a senior American official traveling with Mr. Booth, told reporters in a briefing on Friday.

On Thursday the military appeared to try to spread responsibility for the June 3 killings when a spokesman said that senior judicial officials had participated in plans to clear the protesters on the eve of the crackdown.

At Saturday’s news conference in Khartoum, though, the prosecutor general disputed that version of events, saying that the idea of dispersing the protesters was not discussed.

Source: NYT > World

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