Deposed Sudan President Omar al Bashir, already on trial over economic crimes during his 30-year reign, faces a possible death sentence over his role in the 1989 coup that removed the democratically elected government of Sadid al-Mahdi from power.
During a busy week where he has tried to build confidence in the judiciary following the ouster of Mr al-Bashir in April, Attorney General Taj AlSir AlHeabr said he had formed a committee to investigate the June 30, 1989 military putsch which was led by Mr al-Bashir.
The committee’s findings will form the basis of prosecution of the Islamic Movement’s leaders, including civilians and military personnel, for undermining the constitutional system. The charge has no limitation for time lapses and is punishable by death or life imprisonment.
“The committee has the competencies of public prosecution of military coup perpetrators,” Mr AlHeabr said. It is empowered to call any person to help with investigations and will report back in three months.
The attorney general said he hoped the findings would lay down a marker against forceful take-over of government that has characterised Sudan’s politics. The first coup happened in 1958 just two years after independence when Ibrahim Abboud usurped power.
He was dethroned by Jaafar Numeiri in 1969 who later suffered the same fate at the hands of Mr al-Bashir.
Mr al-Bashir soon cultivated legitimacy with the international community which did not frown at coups then as it does now until he got isolated over his support of terrorist organisations, hostility to a number of neighbouring governments and his ideological leanings to Sharia law.
Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is now on a diplomatic offensive to have Sudan removed from the US state sponsors of terrorism blacklist, which has limited its ability to attract investments or secure external financing for development in the face of a $55 billion debt stockpile.
Last week, the Sudan Council of Ministers resolved to annul the Public Order Act under which women were severely punished for misconducts as provided under Sheria law. The annulment now awaits the endorsement of ruling Transition Sovereign Council.
The committee will later write a criminal report against the masterminds and perpetrators on the 1989 coup. Besides Mr al-Bashir, Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, Nafie Ali Nafie, Ali Al-Haj Mohammed, Ibrahim Al-Sanusi and leaders of the National Islamic Front party led by Hassan Al-Turabi also face charges of undermining the constitutional order.
Legal experts said the turn of events would represent poetic justice for Mr al-Bashir who during his reign exploited provisions on crimes against the state to intimidate and prosecute political opponents as well as civilians.
Article 50 of the Sudanese Criminal Code of 1991 provides that conviction for actions intended to undermine the constitutional order of the country or to jeopardising its independence or unity attracts punishment by death, life imprisonment and confiscation of property.
The East Africa