April 17, 2019 / 8:51 AM / 3 months ago

Toppled Bashir moved from residence to Khartoum's Kobar prison: relatives

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Deposed ex-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been moved to Khartoum’s grim high-security Kobar prison from the presidential residence, family sources said on Wednesday, as military rulers announced steps to crack down on corruption.

Sudan’s military ousted Bashir after weeks of mass protests that climaxed in a sit-in outside the Defence Ministry compound. Protest leaders say demonstrations will not cease until the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) hands power to a civilian-led authority ahead of elections.

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), leading the revolt, has called for sweeping change to end a violent crackdown on dissent, purge corruption and cronyism and ease an economic crisis that worsened during Bashir’s last years in power.

Representatives of the Sudan protesters and main opposition groups known as Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change submitted a two-page document to the TMC calling for the establishment of a civilian-led ruling council with military representation, a member of the team told Reuters.

The document, which was seen by Reuters, also calls for setting up a government comprising no more than 17 ministers and a transitional parliament consisting of 120 members to supervise the work of the government.

The TMC had said it was ready to meet some of the protesters demands, including fighting corruption, but indicated it would not hand over power to them.

On Monday, the African Union urged the TMC to hand power to a transitional civilian-led authority within 15 days or risk Sudan being suspended from the AU.

Among a series of measures, the TMC announced that two of Bashir’s brothers, identified as businessmen Abdallah and al-Abbas, were the most prominent among several people who have been detained.

TMC spokesman Shams El Din Kabbashi also said in a statement read out on state TV that irregular forces that operated outside state institutions under Bashir, including the Popular Defence Forces, the National Service and the Popular Police, had been brought under direct military or police control.

The forces had been accused by protesters of being linked to Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party.

The council had earlier announced initial moves to tackle graft, including ordering the central bank to review financial transfers since April 1 and to seize “suspect” funds, state news agency SUNA said on Wednesday.

SUNA also said that the TMC also ordered the “suspension of the transfer of ownership of any shares until further notice and for any large or suspect transfers of shares or companies to be reported” to state authorities.

The TMC also decreed that all state entities disclose financial holdings within 72 hours, and warned that officials who failed to comply could be fined and face up to 10 years in prison, SUNA reported.

The decree applies to bank accounts and holdings of foreign currency as well as precious metals and jewellery inside and outside Sudan, according to the TMC.

Sudanese demonstrators make victory signs and wave Sudanese flags as they protest in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

BASHIR IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

Bashir, 75, had been detained under heavy guard in the presidential residence inside the compound that also houses the Defence Ministry, before being transferred to Kobar prison late on Tuesday, the family sources said. He was being held in solitary confinement at Kobar, a prison source said.

Kobar, just north of central Khartoum adjacent to the Blue Nile river, housed thousands of political prisoners under Bashir’s nearly 30-year rule and is Sudan’s most notorious jail.

At least some political prisoners have been freed since Bashir’s overthrow, including several SPA figures.

Awad Ibn Auf, an Islamist like Bashir, initially headed the TMC before stepping down after one day in the post. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who has engaged in impromptu dialogue with protesters in the streets of the capital, now heads the council and has promised to hold elections within two years.

REBELS SUSPEND HOSTILITIES

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a rebel group fighting in the southern Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, announced it was ceasing all hostilities until July 31 as a “goodwill gesture” following Bashir’s overthrow.

In a statement conveyed to Reuters in Khartoum, the group’s leader Abdelaziz Adam al-Helew said the move was to help facilitate “the immediate and smooth handover of power to civilians” in Sudan.

The SPLM-N had sought to overthrow Bashir and pushed for autonomy for Blue Nile and South Kordofan states and a redistribution of wealth and political powers in the country.

Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron hand after he seized power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989.

UGANDA MAY OFFER ASYLUM TO BASHIR

Uganda will consider offering asylum to Bashir despite his decade-old indictment by the International Criminal Court, state minister for foreign affairs, Okello Oryem, told Reuters. But Oryem said Bashir had yet to make any contact with Kampala.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has in the past criticised the ICC, calling it a tool of Western justice against Africans.

Bashir faces ICC arrest warrants over accusations of genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region during an insurgency that began in 2003 and led to the death of an estimated 300,000 people. He denies the allegations. Fighting in Darfur has subsided over the past three years.

The head of the TMC’s political committee, Omar Zain al-Abideen, said on Friday the council would not extradite Bashir for trial, suggesting he could be tried in Sudan instead.

In The Hague, an International Criminal Court spokesman declined comment “on hypothetical situations”. ICC member states, which include Uganda, are legally obliged to hand over indictees who enter their territory.

Slideshow (6 Images)

Bashir has defied the ICC by visiting several ICC member states. Diplomatic rows broke out when he went to South Africa in 2015 and Jordan in 2017 and both declined to arrest him for extradition to the ICC in the Netherlands.

London-based Amnesty International called for Bashir to be immediately extradited to ICC custody. “His case must not be hurriedly tried in Sudan’s notoriously dysfunctional legal system. Justice must be served,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty director for East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes.

On Tuesday, TMC chief Burhan fired Sudan’s three highest-ranking public prosecutors after the SPA-led protest movement demanded an overhaul of the judiciary.

Additional reporting by Elias Biryabarema in Kampala and Anthony Deutsch in the Netherlands; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Toby Chopra and Grant McCool

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