Sudan military members go on trial for alleged coup attempt

KHARTOUM Mon Mar 18, 2013 9:43am GMT

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir addresses the crowds during the inauguration of the Roseires Dam's height increase in Damazin, at the conflict-stricken Blue Nile state, January 1, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir addresses the crowds during the inauguration of the Roseires Dam's height increase in Damazin, at the conflict-stricken Blue Nile state, January 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - About a dozen members of Sudan's armed forces have gone on trial on charges of trying to stage a coup against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a defence lawyer told Reuters late on Sunday.

In November, Sudan arrested its former spy chief and other senior military and security officials after foiling what officials said was a plot to incite chaos and target leaders in the oil-producing African state.

Bashir has ruled Sudan for 23 years, weathering multiple armed rebellions, years of U.S. trade sanctions, an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court and the loss of most of the country's oil with South Sudan's 2011 secession.

But the alleged coup attempt amplified a debate about Bashir's future and about who might one day replace him.

A military court began the trial on Thursday for about 12 members of the armed forces charged in the case, Hisham al-Ja'ali, a lawyer for the defendants, said.

"The trial is still in its preliminary stages," he said, adding that the trial of the armed forces members had been separated from that of the civilians and others. The trial for civilians and others has yet to start, Ja'ali said.

High food prices in Sudan caused by the loss of oil - and with it the source of foreign currency used to import wheat and other staples - has stoked some protests against Bashir since the South seceded in July 2011.

Some Islamists inside the army and the ruling National Congress Party have also complained Bashir and other senior leaders have abandoned the Muslim values of the 1989 coup and have concentrated decision-making in the hands of a few people.

But Sudan has avoided the sort of mass unrest and political turmoil that unseated rulers in neighbouring Egypt and Libya.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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