By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will stand trial soon on corruption charges and 41 former officials from his government are being investigated for suspected graft, the chief prosecutor said on Saturday.
Putting Bashir on trial will test how serious the country’s transitional military council is about trying to erase the legacy of Bashir, ousted in April after 30 years of autocratic rule that saw South Sudan secede and the economy deteriorate.
Chief prosecutor Alwaleed Sayed Ahmed Mahmoud said the former president would be referred for trial after a one-week period for objections expires.
“Forty-one criminal cases have been opened against symbols of the former regime, and measures to capture and investigate will completed next week,” he added during a news conference in the capital, Khartoum, without giving further details.
Separately, Mahmoud said the judiciary had not been consulted ahead of a decision to violently disperse a protest camp in the centre of the capital in early June. Dozens of people were killed in the crackdown, which undermined talks on a transition to democracy.
The protest camp outside the Defence Ministry became the focal point of protests as demonstrators demanded the military hand over power to civilians.
The dispersal of the protesters caused a widening rift between them and the ruling Transitional Military Council, raising fears the country may descend into complete chaos.
Mahmoud said he attended a meeting with military heads to discuss judicial supervision of a plan to clear an area known to be used by criminals adjacent to the protest camp.
He said he agreed for police to launch the operation in what is locally known as “Columbia”, provided that it be carried out under supervision of the state prosecutor’s office and without using live ammunition.
But he said the idea of dispersing the protesters was not discussed.
The military council initially said the dispersal of the protest camp happened after an operation against criminals got out of hand.
However, a council spokesman admitted this week that military rulers had planned the camp break-up, but insisted that there was no intention to use violence.
Opposition-linked medics have said 118 people were killed in the crackdown, while the military council has put the toll at 61.
Bashir’s ouster followed months of protests that erupted in December over cash shortages and rising bread prices. Dozens of people were killed in the mostly peaceful demonstrations.
Earlier this week, the prosecutor’s office said it had completed an investigation into the former leader and charged him with offences related to “suspected illicit wealth and emergency orders.”
A judicial source said in April that military intelligence had searched Bashir’s home and found suitcases loaded with more than $351,000 and six million euros, as well as five million Sudanese pounds.
Bashir had already been charged with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters and prosecutors have also ordered his questioning on suspicion of money laundering and terrorism financing.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Helen Popper)