Sudan officers get jail terms for alleged coup attempt

KHARTOUM Sun Apr 7, 2013 12:49pm EDT

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir attends a meeting with leaders from South Sudan at the National Palace in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir attends a meeting with leaders from South Sudan at the National Palace in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa January 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A Sudanese court sentenced nine army officers to prison terms of up to five years on Sunday for their role in an alleged coup attempt against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a lawyer said.

In November, Sudan arrested its former spy chief Salah Gosh and other senior military and security officials after foiling what the government says was a coup plot.

In the first verdict since the arrests, a military court in the capital Khartoum handed down jail terms of between two and five years to nine army officers, said Hisham al-Ja'ali, a lawyer for the defendants.

"They were also dismissed from the armed forces," he told Reuters, adding that another officer had been acquitted of all charges due to a lack of evidence and set free.

Among the convicted is Wad Ibrahim, a senior officer and prominent Islamist in the army, who got a five-year jail term. The trial of Gosh and the accused security officers has yet to start, the lawyer said.

There was no immediate comment from the government, which has refused to provide details of the coup attempt or the investigation.

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.

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

High food prices in Sudan caused by the loss of the 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 that Bashir and other senior leaders have abandoned the Muslim values of the 1989 coup and 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 neighboring Egypt and Libya.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Ulf Laessing in Cairo; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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